Milk

Milk: Government Nutrition Nannies Wrong Again?

Add milk to your diet of salt, red meat, and eggs.

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GotMilk
A Clockwork Orange

Government nutrition nannies have been giving a lot of bad advice about what constitutes healthy eating, according recent research. Federal dietary guidelines urging people to greatly restrict their consumption of salt, red meats, eggs, and fat may have ended up harming far more people than they have helped. Now comes new research suggesting that federal recommendations to cut back on drinking whole milk are wrong too.

In the early 20th century nutritionists, social activists (and dairy farmers, of course) hailed cow's milk as "nature's most perfect food." However, in the late 20th century, dietary guidelines devised by government nutritionists urged people to drink less whole milk as a way to reduce the consumption of fats that they believed led to heart disease. Among the key recommendations in the current federal guidelines is to "increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages." Since the 1970s, per capita milk consumption has dropped by 25 percent and whole milk consumption has dropped by half. 

Today's Washington Post is reporting the results of several new studies that actually find that milk consumption is associated with lower heart disease risk. One 2012 study reported that  "after adjustment for demographics, lifestyle, and dietary confounders, a higher intake of dairy SF [saturated fats, so-called bad fats] was associated with lower CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk." A second 2013 study found that biomarkers that track the level of dairy fats in the blood of 2800 subjects over 8 years "were not significantly associated with incident CVD [cardiovascular disease] or CHD [coronary heart disease]."

It is true that drinking whole milk increases "bad cholesterol," but it now appears that milk also boosts "good cholesterol" which appears to offset the heart damaging effects of the "bad cholesterol."

The Post article traces the intellectual path in which very preliminary epidemiological research in the 1950s was translated into hard and fast dietary rules by government bureaucracies. The upshot, as the Post reports, is that

the "campaign to reduce fat in the diet has had some pretty disastrous consequences,"  Walter Willett, dean of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health has said. "With more fat-free products than ever, Americans got fatter."

However, nannyism remains a professional hazard among nutritionists. For example, Willett still argues that eating red meats is a dietary no-no, whereas other researchers reported in 2013 that "meat consumption was not associated with mortality."

Given the manifold problems with epidemiology, it's hard not to conclude that a lot of nutrition science isn't really science. The Post article offers this excellent advice to nutrition nannies: "No more 'blanket recommendations'" when it comes to what people should and should not eat.

Finally, the new food findings are not a license to pig out. Eating fewer calories (I try, I do try) and consuming more fruits and vegetables is most likely good advice.

For more background see my colleague Jacob Sullum's prescient 2003 article, "The Anti-Pleasure Principle: The "food police" and the pseudoscience of self-denial."

Disclosure: I grew up on a dairy farm. It should have to go without saying, but I am against all subsidies, including dairy subsidies. See my article "The End of Farming," in which I report on biotech efforts to replace milk from cows with milk derived from genetically modified yeast.

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143 responses to “Milk: Government Nutrition Nannies Wrong Again?

  1. Government nutrition nannies have giving a lot of bad advice about what constitutes healthy eating, according recent research. Federal dietary guidelines urging people to greatly restrict their consumption of salt, red meats, eggs, and fat may have ended up harming far more people than they have helped. Now comes new research suggesting that federal recommendations to cut back on drinking whole milk are wrong too.

    So second hand smoke is chopped liver now?

    1. They’ve moved on to third-hand smoke.

      1. What about 4th-hand smoke? I pull your 3d-hand smoke into my body, and I hack up lung goobers into the air, and you breathe them in?

        We need an ENTIRELY NEW BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT ALMIGHTY to protect us from 4th-hand smoke, Government Almighty dammit!

      2. What about 4th-hand smoke? I pull your 3d-hand smoke into my body, and I hack up lung goobers into the air, and you breathe them in?

        We need an ENTIRELY NEW BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT ALMIGHTY to protect us from 4th-hand smoke, Government Almighty dammit!

    2. Dude, people give me the shit-eye all the time when I tell them that yes, in fact, there is such thing as a “safe cigarette.”

    3. We could encourage vaping as an alternative, but that looks like smoking and smoking is bad so it should be banned because CHILDREN.

  2. My kind of alt-text.

  3. Also

    “increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.”

    Fat-free versions of those products are just no good. They’re basically dairy-lies. They’re worse than Arctic Zero “ice cream:–which is cardboard lies masquerading as ice cream.

    1. It also implies soy beverages are “milk products,” which…no.

      1. Almond milk may not be milk, but it IS delicious.

        1. I like milk of the poppy myself.

          1. When I was a child, part of dinner for my older sister and I was drinking 16 ounces of skim milk in addition to the meal. God I hated that so much. Who drinks entire glasses of milk anyway? Unless there’s chocolate or protein powder in it, why bother? It tastes like nothing to me.

            1. Skim milk is a crime against nature. An abomination.

            2. My wife drinks lactaid milk. Ugh. But I don’t drink enough milk to justify buying real milk. The only time I want milk is with my hydrox cookie product.

              1. I buy whole milk, but I only use it to make protein enriched coffee (30g of protein powder mixed with 60g of milk, immersion blended into 275g of coffee) or for when a baking recipe calls for milk.

                1. NO ONE ASKED FOR YOUR RECIPE YOU MEAT HEAD

                  1. EVERY DAY IS A QUEST FOR PROTEIN, DOYERS.

                    Take your skinny-ripped self and gtfo!

                    1. My breakfast smoothie today consisted of “Banana, Earth Fusion Protein, Vanilla Almond Granola, Almond Butter, & Almond Milk”

                      (Copied from the menu of this overpriced smoothie place in DTLA)

                    2. All you need is a soy product and you can start working on your own ovaries, Doyers.

                    3. FUCK SOY AND FUCK SOY CHAI LATTES AND NO IM NOT BITTER ABOUT WORKING AT STARBUCKS IN MY YOUNGER YEARS

                    4. EVERY DAY IS A QUEST FOR PROTEIN, DOYERS.

                      The intrepid Riven suits up in the scalemail passed down for 1000 years by the Whey Knights from whom she descends. She consults her dietary familiar, a small goblin, tamed by a mage when the world was still young, and sets off to the east where vicious protein bars are said to still roam freely on the Planes of Tyrosine.

                    5. It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a bro.

                    6. I do a charisma check against the intimidating bro.

                      He is distracted by my tits and I go on my way to find the elusive Pumpkin Pie Quest bar.

                    7. to find the elusive Pumpkin Pie Quest bar

                      This just has to be nasty. Give me Double Chocolate Chunk Quest bars everytime.

              2. Oreo or nothin’ sucka

            3. It tastes like nothing to me.

              That’s because you were drinking SKIM milk.

              I used to consume over a gallon a week of milk as a teenager. I think it was the growing spurts.

              1. I’ll drink a gallon a weekend in the summer. Winter takes longer, but not a full week. And I ain’t no teenager, not for a long time.

            4. 2% and chocolate chip cookies!

            5. Where’s Warty to regale us with stories of the old ‘milk and squat’ routines?

              My brother and I both did it frequently. On off times, for us, a gallon of milk lasted two days. Skim was the product du jour too. Soy tasted like crap and anything more than 1% left one’s guts feeling… filmy.

              Running and squatting for two-a-days with a stomach full of milk… filmy was not a good feeling.

              1. That’s why you drink it early in the morning or late at night. Midday was for creatine and Gatorade.

                  1. What is best Riven? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!

                    Funny video though.

                1. The majority of my two-a-day days predate creatine. Even if they didn’t, $3.15/hr. as an underage farm laborer means I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth like the rest of you monocle-wearers. We drank skim an liked it. Now get off my lawn!

            6. When I was a child we only had powdered milk. Talk about horrible.

  4. Can we stop pretending that these nannies are giving bad advice or are using bad science or something else that removes responsibility? No, these people are producing exactly the outcomes they want. They believe people should take in less animal protein, whether that is dairy or meat.

    The only thing that changes is the veneer beneath which they couch this. Sometimes, it’s cloaked in faux concerns about health, other times it’s part of the climate change agenda. Whatever it is, it’s not about you eating a healthy diet, a diet that proved to be healthy over centuries.

    1. Then what’s up with the skim milk and low fat milk? It has all the animal protein of the full fat. Personally I think it’s just the puritan bias of most progressives….they think if it’s not enjoyable, it must be good for you. If abortion was enjoyable, they’d be against that too.

    2. Ive never gotten the vegetarian vibe from nanny statists. In fact, they always seem remarkably pro meat to me. That said,I eat primarily veg and have always considered it a bit of a “fuck you” to the powers that be, who seem to really want people to eat meat as long as it’s not delicious meat

  5. Michael Bay’s “Got Milk?” ad is the greatest thing he’s ever directed.

    Anyway, I recently switched from whole milk to 2% for my morning cereal and didn’t notice much of a difference. Should I take the next step and try switching to 1%? (Skim / fat-free is, of course, out of the question.)

    1. Awon Buh.

      I’ve used 1% for years. Every now and then I go to 2% when they’re out of 1%. I can tell the difference, but it isn’t a bad difference. Both are good. Whole is also different, but not necessarily better to me, even though it’s very rare that I drink it. Skim is still dirty water that tastes like dirty water.

    2. I just did the opposite. I saw a reference to a (Finnish?) study that found that people who drunk low-fat milk gained more weight than those who drank whole milk.

    3. If you’re switching away from whole milk you may as well pour tap water on your cereal.

      1. ^ Exactly this. Skim milk is water pretending to be milk.

        1. Skim milk is just the leftover water after all the good stuff has been removed from milk. The only difference between skim milk and water is the lactose and some other stuff that makes it a bluish shade of white.

      2. ^ Exactly this. Skim milk is water pretending to be milk.

          1. Oh, Ron Swanson… I less than three that character.

      3. Agreed!

        If there is half and half in the house, try it on your cereal. Makes this “whole milk” (3.3%) taste like dishwater by comparison.

        And when did whole milk get reduced from 4.0% (160 cal / 8 oz) to 3.3% (150 cal / 8 oz)? Certainly prior to 1995, since by then I had notice the deception, but was this a Clinton thing?

        1. That’s what I used to do. I don’t anymore because cereal has too many carbs.

      4. I originally assumed that, because back in the day I only had experience with whole milk and skim, which I would reluctantly use when the family ran out of whole. (There was normally a quart of skim in the fridge for Mom, and a gallon of the real stuff for everybody else.)

        But I’m tellin’ ya, I cannot notice much difference between whole and 2% on cereal. Don’t compare 2% to that repulsive skim garbage. It’s ridiculous and insulting, like comparing American Sniper to Adam Lanza.

        1. Whole milk is only approximately 4% milkfat, so 2% is only “half-skim”. That’s why it isn’t terrible. But still, 2% cottage cheese tastes like shit compared to 4%. And lowfat cheese…(shudders). It’s an abomination.

          1. “lowfat cheese” = an unholy mix of styrofoam and sponge.

          2. This is why we favor whole milk ricotta cheese over cottage cheese.

      5. The first time I put skim milk in cereal (I was in college at that point), I really did wonder if there had been water in the bowl before I poured it. It still freaks me out when I see skim milk in a bowl of cereal. It looks so wrong.

        1. That’s because it *is* wrong.

  6. Heard somewhere that the people who set these guidelines are going to start taking the environmental impact of the food into account as well. You know – local veggies are good, but methane-producing red meat is bad.

    1. because no local companies produce red meat or pork or chicken. These people are worse than religious zealots.

      1. They are religious zealots.

        1. They are worse: no Baptist or Pentecostal ever lobbied to ban barbecue or fois gras.

      2. There is indeed local of each of these, but the USDA apparently requires that it must be commercially processed, packaged and frozen if it is to be sold.

        Obviously the USDA is trying to kill off local agriculture, since the cost to transport, process, transport home adds to the already high price. And after it’s been frozen, who wants to eat it anyway?

    2. Correct – see link to the specific chapter of Advisory Committee Report on Food Sustainability and Safety.

      http://health.gov/dietaryguide…..chapter-5/

  7. Like any sane adult, I stopped drinking milk because it tastes terrible – not because the government told me to.

    1. You instead drink heavy cream, like a man?

      1. Fresh churned buttermilk or GTFO.

      2. Never take milk advice from a south OC brat. It’s in the CA constitution.

    2. “tastes terrible”

      You’re supposed to drink it before it curdles and smells like death.

      1. Yes. AFTER it curdles and smells like death, you melt it on a pizza or sprinkle it on salad.

  8. For example, Willett still argues that eating red meats is a dietary no-no, whereas other researchers reported in 2013 that “meat consumption was not associated with mortality.”

    Bailey, you of all people should know that eating red meat is a no-no for climate change and sustainability reasons, not dietary ones.

    1. “meat consumption was not associated with mortality.”

      So, if I eat enough red meat, it’s possible I will live forever?

      1. Everything is possible. Most things are highly improbably.

      2. It’s not associated with mortality because vegans tend to be virulently anti-gun.

      3. You are worse than the chinese and their belief that rhino horn makes them virile.

        How many native americans have to be wiped out before this myth that red meat gives immortality to the people who eat it?

    2. I’ve said it here before, what kills me is that a lot of ranch land that is used to raise cattle can never ever be effectively farmed, so it isn’t accurate to say that “if only those cows weren’t there, we’d have an extra X bushels of corn.” For example, ranchers run a lot of cattle in the Badlands of western North Dakota. The cows graze along the sides of buttes that could never be planted with anything.

      Of course that would mean that the average city dweller would have to venture outside of their concrete jungle and actually see where their food comes from.

  9. But the science is SETTLED!

  10. I get my dairy food through cheese,chedder,Swiss,Italian,all blues.I’m not a milk drinker.I do cook with cream and half and half though. Sea food chowders ,mmmm.

      1. It’s chow-dah! Say it right!

    1. And a rare grilled ribeye with blue cheese top and grilled onions,peppers and mushrooms and a stout. The meal of real men.

    2. And a rare grilled ribeye with blue cheese top and grilled onions,peppers and mushrooms and a stout. The meal of real men.

      1. The meal of real men is breakfast. And for that I’ll have 3 eggs, over easy with salt and pepper, a side of bacon, a side of toast with jelly, a bowl of buttered grits, a side of sage sausage, a cup of OJ, and a cup of coffee. Oh, and extra toast to sop up my eggs in case the unthinkable happens.

        1. Dude, where’s the bread fried in bacon fat? And your tomatoes fried in bacon fat? And mushrooms fried in bacon fat? And beans? Your breakfast is half incomplete.

          1. I was doing the low carb thing for years, giving up bread, eating bacon and eggs almost every morning, until I was at my parent’s place one day and thought, “What if I fry some of their bread in the bacon fat?”

            Sweet Jesus. I still don’t keep bread at my place, or else I’d probably fry a piece for every meal.

            1. Apparently the low carb thing “works” for some people, and if that’s the case, good for them. I’m an omnivore, I’ve always eaten as an omnivore, I like eating everything. My personal thing is that I don’t really care for stuff like pancakes or cake (that’s not to say I hate them or won’t eat them if hungry), and I definitely am something of a protein hound, but I supplement the shit out of that with bread and fruit and noodles and so on.

              Food is good. I’m going to eat most of it. And your mom. If you know what I mean.

            2. Did your body go into FULL FREAKOUT SHOCK during the first two days when it realized it couldn’t find any carbohydrates to metabolize? I stopped after a month.

              1. Doyers was weak.

                And wanted cookies

                1. I now limit my beer drinking to Sundays and Reason events.

                  1. Every comments section is an event.

              2. The first time I did it? Hell yeah. I broke down the second day and got a slice of pizza, because I was feeling terrible and had to get to class. I tried it again the next week, got over the hump, and now have no problem going back and forth.

          2. Fry the eggs in the bacon fat, and who eats beans for breakfast? You sound like a Yankee or a Limey.

    3. Yeah, I never drink milk, ever, though I don’t mind a bit of whole milk here and there. I just don’t use it for anything, so I never have any around. But I have shitloads of cheese, and I cook with cream all the time.

      1. shitloads of cheese

        TMI

        1. What? Never had some dick cheese schmeared on toast? You’re missing out.

    4. I am now hungry for meat and cheese, not necessarily in that order. I blame you.

  11. The government that gave you common core math, which no mathematician was involved with, also wants to tell you what to eat. yea I’ll bit that never.

  12. Related:

    “Feds won’t address beef’s environmental toll in dietary guidelines”
    […]
    “Federal officials said Tuesday they will not consider the much-debated environmental impact of raising and consuming beef when they finalize the nation’s dietary guidelines this year.”
    […]
    “Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell said they would base their suggestions about what Americans should eat ? and should not eat ? on nutrition, not sustainability.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/…..554657.php

  13. consuming more fruits and vegetables is most likely good advice

    I went to a naturopath a few years back (is that un-libertarian?). She encouraged me to increase the amount of vegetables I was eating but to drastically cut back on fruit. Her argument was that, by eating as much fruit as I was, I was taking in too many sugars.

    1. Was it a voluntary exchange? If so, you’re good. I too think that fruit may have too much sugar, so I eat it sparingly.

      1. I don’t really draw a distinction between “natural sugars” and “added sugars,” myself. That said, if I’m going to eat sugar, I’m going to eat a poptart ice cream sandwich dipped in crushed up sugar cereal instead of fruit.

        The only bonus to fruit is that it usually has a decent amount of fiber. But that’s what Quest bars are for

        1. When I cook it is usually a grilled protein and some veggies/salad. Cheese, olives and a nice Rioja while the meat cooks.

          1. That sounds very reasonable… and not at all like how I eat.

            Dinners are fatty, carby, proteiny feasts of pizza + breaded wings + cheese sticks, or general tso + curry rice noodles + crab things, or other such out of control nonsense.

      2. I fucking love fruit, I eat it constantly. If my body wants it, it’s welcome to have it. But I think mangoes are out of season right now because I can’t seem to find one for less than three bucks.

        1. “I fucking love fruit fruits.”

          There, FIFY. All yours, Jesse.

          1. Well, I am the gayest monster since gay came to Gaytown. I basically have to like fruits.

          2. *cracks open 55-gallon drum of lube*

            1. *straps on gimp suit*

              1. *hides in shuttered door closet*

                1. *pops out from behind the coats*
                  Fancy meeting you here.

    2. True, but some veggies are also high in fructose sugars.

    3. Thanks for the comments. Well, at least until it got to Los Doyers. I mean, what happened after that was funny but not relevant.

      1. Glad I could help. I also look forward to my Browns browning their way to victory against your team this Sunday.

          1. Damn. That’s what I get for assuming the obvious, I guess.

            1. If it’s any consolation, you’re not the first.

  14. Disclosure: I grew up on a dairy farm.

    So Ron is Pamela Poovey of Reason? Seems legit. Nick (or The Jacket, at least) is definitely a Mallory type. Now, who is Krieger?

    1. More importantly, where are the green russians?

      1. Truly the most important question. And something LA Reasonite gathering should consider if they want to lure more staff!

    2. “I don’t know what that means Pam. I wasn’t raised on a cheese farm.”
      “Oh for the love of… It’s called a dairy!”

      Ron would have to be Krieger. Did ENB grow up on a dairy? I could see her throwing down in underground fighting rings.

      1. Did…did you just equate Elizabeth…to Pam?!? I mean, to her credit, wouldn’t she be more of a Cheryl?

        1. Nah, I don’t think ENB is an ISIS regular. She strikes me as Rhona Thorne. Sweet and bubbly on the outside, stone cold assassin (if she’s offered to direct).

        2. There’s a darkness there. Sure, she has the joie de vivre of Cheryl (that is: crazy kinks), but the rage that fits Pam more than Cheryl. Who else would strap on some shock gloves, take off their shirt (to reveal a Lord Byron tattoo), and throw down? Robby??

          1. YOU’RE NOT MY SUPERVISOR

          2. YOU’RE NOT MY SUPERVISOR

  15. Nutrition science, like many branches of epidemiology, is extremely difficult and complex. There is a rough scientific consensus out there on nutrition, though it is far from complete or in total agreement. This is very poorly communicated to the public, though, because whole industries rely on the public being misinformed (such as with so-called diet foods and vitamin supplements). Each big company seems to have an “institute” promoting “science” that deems its own product as essential to a healthy diet. Government nutrition policy, of course, has long been influenced by powerful industries. As usual, capitalism takes science and fucks it in the eye. On an individual level the solution is to be incredibly knowledgeable about the source of research funding. Since that’s obviously not going to work, the only real solution is to try to divorce economic interests from science, which is probably just as unlikely given the power of the Monsantos of the world. Ideally, government should be powerful enough to resist such lobbying and pressure and get to real science.

    1. “…because whole industries rely on the public being misinformed…”

      And you forgot whole government agencies do, too.

      1. But THEY.ARE.TOP.MEN

      2. And even entire governments.

    2. Are you a scientist? If not then how can you have an opinion on this?

      What is your diet so we can be educated by our bettors? What would you propose here? Can you provide examples of how being in the eye?

      1. His diet is government cum.

    3. Tony, how do you make government powerful enough to resist lobbying? The more powerful government is, the higher the return on investment for lobbyists, which leads to more lobbying. Or are you suggesting that more power makes politicians and bureaucrats less likely to be corrupt?

      1. Truly is mind boggling. The more power government holds, the more lobbying and cronyism there will be. It is asking the fox to guard the hen house. People who claim they want to limit corporate influence but seek socialism are mind boggling to me.

      2. This argument doesn’t get any less ridiculously self-serving and illogical with repetition. When I say power, I mean the ability to resist influence. That means the ability to make rules in the absence of incentives to please industry and the ability to meaningfully enforce them. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but at least it’s one that is at least theoretically possible. Congress has the power to declare war on whole countries, a power you probably don’t want to take away from it. The size of government is an irrelevant distraction, mere buzzwords employed in the service of the very cronyist interests we’re discussing. Legislatures can make laws and force people and industries to do things. It has always been thus and always will be. The specific thing we’re talking about here is the power to act sensibly in the public interest instead of for the profits of a few wealthy private ones. There is no increase or decrease in actual power, in the end. The question is how to get from a place of being co-opted by these interests to being responsive to the public interest, which is government’s job.

        1. Tony|10.7.15 @ 4:05PM|#
          “When I say power, I mean the ability to resist influence.”
          So, unicorns?

          “That means the ability to make rules in the absence of incentives to please industry and the ability to meaningfully enforce them.”
          What about pleasing the oh, so superstitious congress critters who fund your agency, Tony?
          Damn, you’re stupid!

    4. Government nutrition policy, of course, has long been influenced by powerful industries. As usual, capitalism takes science and fucks it in the eye.

      Adorable, keep doing you Tony.

  16. Add milk to your diet of salt, red meat, and eggs

    I plan to, good advice.

  17. Being libertarian why would you ever listen to government guidelines in the first place. Bureaucrats are usually more wrong than right and all to often know they are but yield to their special interest groups. Down with all governments.

  18. No thanks; I will stick with my glass of wine.

    1. I’m having a sweet and salty caramel cappachino with some rumchata right now. Yeah, it’s all sugar but needed a boost.

  19. The science is settled

  20. The literature on sodium is orders of magnitude more robust than global warming. Yet Ron is a true believer in the latter and a conspiracies of the former. How scientific.

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