Demystifying Low Fat Milk

Only one row of whole milk, how sad!

As you may know I’m the mother of two young girls.  Consequently, most of my friends have similarly aged children and when we’re together we talk about sleepless nights, potty trainings and pediatrician appointments.  Nothing sets my hair on fire faster than when one of these friends (with a “mommier than thou” tone) questions why I’m still giving my daughters whole fat milk because their doctor recommended switching over to low fat milk.  I want to say, “because I’m an informed mom who did my research and is making a decision that is my child’s best interest.”  I don’t.  I bite my tongue and say, “It’s what our family drinks,” or some version of that.  I find if I start going into the nutritional details it rarely ends well.  Nutrition, I’m finding is like politics and religion, people really have to be open and willing to have a discussion or things can get heated pretty quickly.  So this my podium.  Maybe some of those moms will read this and know my real answer…but probably they won’t get past this paragraph.
Whole milk, is a whole food full of amazing proteins, vitamins, minerals & essential fats that a growing body and brain needs.  Think about it, this food has everything we need to sustain life!  The further away you get from the whole food you started with, the more non-nutritive that food becomes.  This inculdes milk.  So let’s talk about how low fat/skim milk is processed.

First, the nutritious saturated fat is removed because it’s supposedly unhealthy.  Not to get too far off topic here, but there is a lot of current research debunking the myth that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease.  The biochemistry is a bit confusing and to be quite honest I’m still trying to wrap my brain around some of it, but let’s just say that it’s becoming painfully clear that we’ve been living under some pretty false assumptions about fats for the past 30 years.  This sort of explains why the heart health of Americans has gotten worse, not better!  Anyway, that’s for another post!  So where was I?   The fat is removed and then dried milk is added to give the milk more protein.  “This dried milk is produced by forcing skim milk through tiny holes at high temperatures and pressures which damages its nutrients. This also causes the milk’s cholesterol to become oxidized which is a legitimate risk for heart disease (See Natural Bias).”  Cholesterol oxidization is something that current research is absolutely linking to heart disease.  Again this is for another post, but if you want to learn more now, listen to these two podcasts (Part 1 and  Part 2) by Chris Masterjohn, a PhD candidate in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition at the University of Connecticut.  So back to the milk, basically they take out the good stuff and put in some potentially bad stuff.  Once the fat is removed, many of the essential vitamins in milk (specifically A & D) are useless, because they are fat soluble.  The fat also helps our bodies digest the protein in milk and promote immune system health and cell metabolism.  See, the nutrients in whole foods have a natural synergy with one another…nature knows what its doing folks.  But wait, there’s more.  Once they’ve removed all of nutrients from the milk, they homogenize it.  Once again the milk is forced through tiny holes at high pressure and temperature to break up the fat molecules.  This completely changes the fat molecules making them more likely to create an autoimmune/allergic reaction and less likely to promote healthy development.   The reason for this extra processing…to keep the cream from rising to the top.  Honestly, that’s it!  It serves no other purpose.  Have we really become so lazy that we can’t shake up a bottle of milk?  Here’s the bottom line:  Skim/Low Fat milk is a highly processed food!  So when you grab that carton from the shelf, you may as well grab a bag of cheesy poofs to go with it.

Aside from heart disease, obesity is another reason cited for drinking low fat milk.  Certainly our country has an obesity epidemic.  Saturated fat is not the cause!  For centuries, people lived on good, saturated animal fats and heart disease and obesity were not issues.  When did this become an issue? When we started eating loads of processed, low fat foods.  Fat is not making us fat.  Processed foods, full of refined sugars and flours that the body can’t properly metabolize are making us fat!  Again, this is another post for another time, but basically when you remove the fat from dairy it becomes more of a simple sugar and the body will metabolically treat it as such.

So if research is showing that low fat milk is less healthy and possibly unhealthy, why is everyone drinking it?  You need to ask yourself,  “Who benefits from his?”  “Who has an agenda?”.  Well, the dairy industry for one.  When the fat is removed from milk it can be used to make other dairy products such as cream & sour cream.  They can charge you twice for the same product.   That’s where politics come in to play.  They dairy industry is a huge lobby.  A lobby which has successfully persuaded the ADA to promote the idea that low fat is better.  Everybody’s making money off this while the state of health in America continues to decline.  I think that’s probably the definition of a “cash cow!” (Pun totally intended.)

Final question: Why do pediatricians often advocate switching to low fat dairy?  This is a great question.  I suggest you ask your doctor.  I suspect you’ll get one of the two answers above, heart disease or obesity.  I further suspect that if you push the issue and ask about the research and science you’ll get dismissed in some way.  The fact is that most doctors have very little nutrition training and they will usually admit that.  Doctors are very good at treating disease, but most are not as good at promoting health.  But you know what?  That’s OK!  Because it is our job to take care of our own health and that of our children, to become informed and to ask questions.  It’s a shame that we have to become biochemists and politicians to do so.  It should be easier, but it’s not.  It’s been predicted that this generation…our children…will be the first generation in centuries to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.  To me, this makes it totally worth the time and effort.  We owe this to our children!

So take one step right now.  Commit to learning one nutrition FACT each week and making one change in your family’s diet.  Start with this:  Find a source of good, quality milk (unpasteurized and unhomogenized if possible) and let your little ones enjoy this food as it was meant to be enjoyed. You will all be the better for it!

Eat Well, Be Well,

For Sources of REAL milk in your area click here.

For more information about milk try these books

2 thoughts on “Demystifying Low Fat Milk

  1. I love this blog. I'm from your area and enjoy the same traditional lifestyle and eating habits that you and your family do, but don't yet have a family of my own. The blog I write attempts to debunk and inform, like yours, but I don't have much clout because I'm only feeding myself. Like you, I bristle and become red in the face when my friends and peers question my full-fat, protein-rich diet and have a hard time being true to myself while at the same time remaining diplomatic and understanding. I just wanted to let you know that I support your blog "podium" and look forward to reading your findings and ideas. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help you in your quest, and please please don't stop spreading your knowledge!

  2. Thanks Ariel. I think we might be part of the same farm-to-consumer group. Though I guess it's possible there is another REAL food Ariel in the area. I think you are in a really good place, not only because you can influence people who aren't already broken by a SAD diet, but also because when you are in a position where others are relying on you for food you will already be so knowledgeable. I cringe when I think of some of the things I fed my family years ago. Your blog looks great. Keep up the good work and hopefully we'll cross paths one day…maybe at Nora's 🙂

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