Did you know an article in The Guardian news in which it reported people under 65 who eat a lot of meat, eggs and dairy are four times as likely to die from cancer or diabetes, was incorrect? The actual number is 73 times as likely to die from cancer or diabetes. 

The harmful effects seen in the above study were almost completely eliminated when the protein came from plant sources, such as beans and legumes.

Children, Cow’s Milk and Constipation

In 1998, a study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine comparing cow’s milk and soy milk. The study analyzed 65 children suffering from chronic constipation, all had been previously treated unsuccessfully with laxatives; 49 had anal fissures, inflammation and swelling. The researchers gave the youngsters either cow’s milk or soy milk for two weeks and then switched it around.

In two thirds of the children, the constipation stopped occurring while they were receiving soy milk. The anal fissures and pain were cured also. None of the children receiving cow’s milk had a positive response. In the 44 responders, hypersensitivity to cow’s milk protein was confirmed in all cases. 

All the lesions, including the most severe anal fissures, disappeared with a cow’s milk-free diet, yet reappeared within days after the reintroduction of cow’s milk back into their diets.

Why does removing cow’s milk treat these conditions? Studies looking at biopsy tissue samples in patients with chronic constipation and cow’s milk protein hypersensitivity have found signs of rectal inflammation, reaffirming previous studies indicating cow’s milk protein induces an inflammatory response.

Since then, studies from around the world have confirmed these findings.  Up to 80 percent of children’s constipation cases can be prevented by switching to soy milk or rice milk. One deficiency with the studies though, is when they switched kids from cow’s milk to non-dairy milk, the children could still have been eating other dairy products such as cheese and/or yogurt. 

A 2013 study reported in American Journal of Gastroenterology removed all dairy products from constipated children and 100 percent were cured, compared with 68 percent in the New England Journal study.

Children, Cow’s Milk and Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, one of the most common chronic diseases among children is characterized by the selective loss of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells in genetically susceptible individuals, but a trigger from the environment is generally needed.

There are two main types of casein protein (A1 and A2).  A1 and A2 beta-casein are genetic variants of the beta-casein milk protein that differ by one amino acid.  A1 casein breaks down into casomorphin, whereas A2 casein doesn’t. Casomorphin is one of the opioid compounds formed in our stomachs when we drink milk and these opioid properties may alter immune function. They may increase susceptibility to infections that themselves trigger type 1 diabetes. 

A1 casein is found in Holstein cows; the ones with the classic black-and-white pattern, who make up about 95% of the U.S. dairy herd, and much of the global dairy herd.

Studies were designed, where hundreds of siblings of type 1 diabetics were followed for about ten years, and those that drank a lot of milk had about five times the risk of developing diabetes.

By the mid-90s, more than a dozen such studies were done. And, overall, they found that “early cow’s milk exposure” appears to “increase the risk” of type 1 diabetes by about 50%. That was good enough for the American Academy of Pediatrics, who decided that “cow’s milk protein may be an important factor in the initiation of the [process that destroys your insulin-producing cells].”

Children, Cow’s Milk, Apnea and Autism

Infant apnea refers to when a baby stops breathing. The researchers in a 2013 Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition“ study report a case of a breast-fed infant with recurring apnea episodes, which have always been preceded by his mother’s consumption of fresh cow’s milk.” Lab tests revealed a high level of casomorphin in the child’s blood, leading researchers to speculate it was the “opioid activity that may have a depressive effect on the respiratory center in the central nervous system and induce a phenomenon called milk apnea.”

The aim as stated in the report, “is to draw researchers’ attention to the possibility of occurrence of a systemic reaction with an apnea seizure on the infant’s exposure to the proteins in cow’s milk. We are convinced that such a clinical situation occurs rarely; however, it is accompanied by a real threat to the infant’s life that can be avoided when applying a simple and not costly dietetic intervention…[a dairy-free diet]”.

“Attacks of apnea and muscular atony [where babies go limp] after exposure to cow’s milk may be also explained by extra-central activity of casomorphin.”

The reason this is so concerning is that as many as 1 in 10 infants with recurring episodes of apnea cannot be saved and die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death. SIDS is the leading cause of death for healthy infants after one month of age. One in every two thousand American babies dies from SIDS. Every day six babies die needlessly.

Casomorphin is also responsible for triggering pseudo-allergic reactions, and other abnormalities seen in crib death. In addition, because casomorphin is so similar to morphine, the gastric emptying time is delayed, and may increase the risk of infants refluxing their stomach content back up into their lungs.

Sudden infant death syndrome is not the only condition linked to these morphine-like compounds. Casomorphins are accused of participating in the cause of such conditions as: autism, postpartum psychosis, circulatory disorders, and food allergies.

In regards to autism, the human casomorphins, which are the only ones found in the breast milk of women who don’t drink cow’s milk, are associated with “normal psychomotor development and muscle tone.” In contrast, elevated levels of bovine (cow) casomorphin found in cow’s milk-based, formula-fed infants was associated with a “delay in psychomotor development” and muscle tone.

This evidence suggests that the inability of some infants to adequately eliminate bovine casomorphin may be “a risk factor for delay in psychomotor development and other diseases such as autism.”

Cost of production of protein

Livestock production has undergone a massive transformation in recent history. Small ranches and independent farms have been replaced with huge corporate facilities, where animals are crammed into excrement-filled cages, and injected with antibiotics and hormones to maintain health and maximize growth. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast amounts of the world’s tropical rain forests.

And with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predicting that meat production will double by the middle of this century, conditions are set to worsen.

This is bad news for the planet. Animal manure is a rich source of nitrous oxide, the fourth most dangerous greenhouse gas. Making animal feed releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, and the animals themselves, particularly cows, emit startling quantities of yet another greenhouse gas — methane, even more than transportation vehicles do.

Greenhouse gasses are any of the atmospheric gases that contribute to the solar warming of the Earth’s surface. Although greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, the elevated levels that have been observed in recent decades are directly related, at least in part, to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and the deforestation of tropical forests.

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Pamela Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent, it would be as if they all switched from a standard sedan, such as Camry, to the ultra-efficient Prius.

Likewise, a study by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometers, or 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

Higher prices are unwelcome for residents of wealthier nations, but could have tragic consequences for those of poorer ones, especially if higher prices for feed divert production away from food crops into fuel sources. The demand for ethanol, a renewable fuel made from various plant materials, is already pushing up prices and explains, in part, the 40 percent rise in the food price index calculated by the Food and Agricultural Organization in 2009.

Even though nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This is the case in spite of the obvious inefficiencies: About “two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock,” rather than giving the grain directly to people, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

The environmental impact of growing so much grain for animal feed is staggering. Agriculture in the United States – much of which now serves the demand for meat – contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in U.S. rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Animal waste, hormones, antibiotics, and sick, dead and decaying animals contribute to the contamination of our waterways. 

Rather than focusing on feeding animals plant foods, we could just feed ourselves directly and help eliminate hunger and malnutrition. Humans do not require nutrients from animal products to sustain life, we do however, require plant nutrients. Perhaps it is time to place the emphasis on feeding people rather than the animals raised for food production.