|In defence of fresh milk|
|Thursday, 07 June 2012 00:00|
WHENEVER I ask patients: — “What would you prefer? An improperly fed child who dies prematurely, with multiple bone fractures from osteoporosis, which forces him into a wheelchair, or urging the drinking of fresh milk so as to prevent these negative complications?”
Without exception, they always answer they will encourage fresh milk drinking.
Too many Zimbabweans deny their children whole milk. It is now the fashion to use “low-fat” or skimmed milk, or, even worse, milk powder. They worry about the fat content of fresh, whole milk. But that wrongful decision can have major ill-health consequences in later life.
These days, we “adults” are on a low-fat kick. Yes, the urban Zimbabwean diet is subject to a lot of pressures and promotions, which our grandparents did not have to deal with.
On TV and in print mail advertising, we are urged to eat too much, especially “man-made” transfats — artificially made hydrosilated vegetable (mostly rape seed, palm nut, or cotton seed derived) cooking oils margarines or ice creams.
However, adults make what I believe to be a fundamental error. That is in thinking what is right for adults must be good for children.
Even a high authority as the World Health Organisation decries the use of whole, fresh milk as an infant weaning food!
In my view, it is wrong to treat children like over-weight middle-aged adults.
Long ago, and probably since milkmaids began milking cows, it was recognised that children needed whole milk up to at least the age of 18. And, more recent scientific research has confirmed that the growing human being is heavily dependent for full maturity on the elements in whole, fresh, cow’s milk.
The reason is easy to understand. Children experience rapid growth during the first decade or so of life, and especially the brain and nervous system does not develop adequately if there is not enough natural fat in their diet. Also, they become more vulnerable to infectious disease and long-term illnesses if the diet is lacking in milk fat.
I find that even medical doctors do not understand the vital nature of essential fatty acids, and we all need them throughout life, in balanced proportions. This is one reason why vitamin and mineral supplements have such a high profile when vague symptoms are experienced — it’s an attempt to correct imbalances in our modern “fast food” diets, especially those food fads which we seem to have from time to time.
We, as a nation, tend to go for processed foods rather than natural sources. Perhaps it’s an unintended consequence of the so-called women’s emancipation.
Busy housewives find it easier to open a tin or get a ready-made synthetic drink from a tetrapack or can. But the important fact is that at least 64 different fatty acids occur in milk, and none of these have been linked to coronary artery disease or any other condition. Besides, many of them are only available naturally in fresh, whole milk.
A great deal of muddled thinking has come out of “modern” scientific research. The fact is that milk is the closest you can get to a perfect, complete, food. That also is one reason why nutritionists in the war years and afterwards were recommending subsidised school milk in Europe.
One of the “sacrifices” Margaret Thatcher was heavily criticised for making when she was Minister of Education in the Heath government in Britain was removing the subsidy for school milk. It is ironic that the film about “The Iron Lady”, opens with a scene of her complaining about the high price of milk.
In fact, in the Western world in the last three decades the consumption of whole milk has consistently declined, because of spurious lumping of all animal fats into one “bad” basket.
We, in Zimbabwe, sadly still believe that those societies are superior to ours, and therefore slavishly follow their ideas, and their patterns of behaviour. There is still a widely held unqualified belief that “cholesterol is bad for you”.
It has been termed, by some doctors, “an epidemic of cholesterol phobia”, but nobody is told that 80 percent of the body’s cholesterol is manufactured from sugars in the liver. Or that milk is not causing the rise in heart attacks.
So, what has really changed? The fact is that we are consuming 16 times as much vegetable (artificial) fats, including cooking oil, as 70 years ago, and the people who have really got “fat”on it are the big, Western complexes and companies that manufacture synthetic oils.
Decreasing rates of whole milk consumption are associated — nay, they cause — increasing rates of osteoporosis. This is because milk is one of the most important sources of calcium, which develops strong bones, and therefore prevents osteoporosis.
The complex way in which calcium is absorbed in the correct amount and the rest, unwanted, excreted is a matter for brighter minds. But it also seems to depend on the
essential fatty acids in milk, not just on a simple mathematical equation, in terms of intake and output of calcium. In fact, calcium in milk is in an organic form caseinogen which makes it available to immature stomachs because inorganic Ca is difficult to digest.
Be that as it may, to remain wheelchair free in later life calcium must fortify and be incorporated in skeletal bone early in life — it cannot be compensated adequately later on.
Up to about 33-34 years more bone is being formed than absorbed: the process is reversed later on and the bulk and strength of our bones gradually decreases. Especially for menopausal women, the ceasing of the hormonal cycle accelerates bone loss.
Some authorities, mainly in America, indicate that by 80 years of age a lot of women have lost up to 40 percent of bone mass, with the effect that a slight fall can fracture a hip and a strong hug can fracture their ribs.
It is estimated that in Europe by age 75 about 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men will have hip disease, mostly through fractures of the head of the hip bone, while in North America the prevalence is more than half. Worse still, 25 percent of people suffering hip fractures die within six months, and a further 50 percent never resume normal activities. Perhaps that is why we see so many NGOs donating wheelchairs?
The nub of this article is that it is never too early to start proper nutrition to prevent complications in later life. The theme of the World Health Organisation this year is “Healthy Ageing”. Or, as my office prefers to put it, AGE GREEN.
Remember, brother, or sister, as long as you are green (meaning, willing to learn), you can grow. And don’t forget, that for centuries, fresh, whole, cow’s milk has been the best source of nutrition for you and your children!