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Controversial film portrays milk as nutritional villain

(istock)
By Deborah Kotz
Globe Staff / September 5, 2011

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A controversial documentary that came out on DVD last week has taken on the milk industry’s “got milk’’ campaign with its cadre of celebrities sporting “mustaches.’’ Clearly, the independent filmmaker, Shira Lane, has an agenda, though she claims she has no anti-dairy position and is just trying “to get the truth on the unchallenged perceptions of milk.’’

“Got the Facts on Milk?’’ is just as sleek and spunky a film as the ads portraying milk as a wonder food that will help you lose weight, build muscle, and avoid every health ill from menstrual cramps to osteoporosis. But the film completely flips it, making milk into the nutritional villain.

Some of the documentary’s assertions are valid: milk causes diarrhea and bloating in those with lactose intolerance, and some people have full-blown milk allergies and shouldn’t have any dairy to avoid allergic reactions like rashes, hives, and breathing problems. But the same case can be made for other allergenic foods like nuts, strawberries, and mangoes, all plant foods embraced by the experts who were interviewed by Lane.

And the film oversteps by blaming dairy foods for the raging obesity epidemic and rise in heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. No question high-fat, calorie-dense cheese and milk shakes can makes us fat, but are they really worse than steak and fries?

We have no idea since the documentary doesn’t back up any claims with solid research studies.

Dr. John McDougall, an avowed vegetarian who runs a health spa in Santa Rosa, Calif., for well-heeled patients trying to improve their diets, said in the film that “dairy is basically liquid meat’’ with the same amount of fat, cholesterol, protein, and lack of fiber. In fact, he added, people can improve their health more by giving up dairy instead of meat - again, no evidence to back that up.

McDougall makes no distinction between fried butter on a stick and skim milk. And how about all the studies demonstrating the benefits of yogurt? The film ignores those.

Cornell University nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell did make some compelling points, however, about the US Department of Agriculture’s conflict of interest in both helping to support the dairy industry and setting the dietary guidelines for Americans to follow.

The film points out that some members of the expert panel convened to revise the guidelines had financial relationships with the dairy industry, and not surprisingly the new dietary guidelines issued in January tell us to eat more low-fat dairy products. What’s more, that new food plate produced by the USDA this year to replace the food pyramid has a glass of milk next to the plate to encourage us to get a serving of dairy at every meal.

Throughout the film, Lane promises to speak with USDA folks to get them to explain their policies and the latest milk research, yet she drives all the way from California to the USDA’s offices in Beltsville, Md., over several weeks only to realize when she gets there that perhaps she should have called ahead to schedule an interview.

She never does get her questions answered - I wonder how hard she tried - and that’s frustrating to viewers who are led to believe that she’s going to finally get to the bottom of the milk controversy. Instead, she raises more questions than she answers.

weenote wrote: Eat as much raw fruit and vegetable food as you can and add delicious meat sparingly. Cheese is great with wine, but too much of either will make you sick.

VictimOfCircumstances wrote: It’s not that it’s poisonous or anything and it certainly has nutritional value but milk is intended for baby mammals to fatten them up and get them through the infancy growth period. After that, mammals in nature don’t drink milk again.

ChristieY wrote: There are plenty of ways to get calcium and protein in the diet without turning to milk. That being said, milk is not a “villain.’’

fsmith95112 wrote: Sounds like they attended the “Michael Moore’’ school of film. Facts don’t matter, sensationalism does.

who-cares-1940 wrote: A story like this brings out all the “medical’’ quacks who spout their apocryphal “knowledge.’’ Most things that aren’t poisonous are just fine in moderation.

Pediatricians warn teens of boxing's dangers

The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out against boxing for children and teens. “Boxing encourages and rewards direct blows to the head and face,’’ the pediatrics group pointed out in a position paper published last week in its journal, Pediatrics.

But, the experts conceded, it’s also less likely to cause injuries than “other collision sports such as football, ice hockey, wrestling, and soccer.’’

One study found that amateur boxers ages 15 to 37 sustained one injury for every 1,000 hours of boxing. That’s lower than the 4.4 injuries incurred from 1,000 hours of football, 2.5 injuries from wrestling, and 2.4 from soccer.

But boxers were more likely to get injured seriously enough to require hospitalization. And most of their injuries were, not surprisingly, head injuries. Concussions were the most common, and they can sometimes lead to permanent brain injuries.

Head injuries are a scary prospect in any sport. Repeated concussions can result in a decline in academic performance and increased likelihood of amnesia, personality changes, and confusion; in rare cases, they can lead to permanent brain damage due to chronic brain swelling, a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

ckfitz06 wrote: Last time I checked, boxing wasn’t a high school sport offered in most schools, if any. I can’t see why any doctor would advocate boxing for teens.

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