Raw Milk and Civil Disobedience.

Milk?

Real Stories (2017)

Film Review

An over-the-top campaign by the FDA to arrest and intimidate US producers and distributors of raw milk has led the sale and consumption of raw milk to be the third most common form of civil disobedience, after marijuana possession and tax evasion. See The Federal Campaign Against Local Health Food

This is the first time I’ve seen the issue of raw milk portrayed as a form of civil disobedience, which it clearly is. Otherwise I had a problem with the way this documentary was divided into pro-milk and anti-milk camps. People who wish to consume milk need clear and accurate information about some of the health risks. Unfortunately this film leaves viewers  with the sense that milk-related health risks are far too complex for consumers to reach any clear conclusion.

The Powerful Dairy Lobby

Owing to billions the dairy lobby has spent on marketing (and a fair amount of bribery and corruption at the US Department of Agriculture) the supposed health benefits of milk, milk and dairy product are the most consumed food on earth. Milk and dairy products account for 46% of the average American’s diet.

The filmmakers interview a host of independent researchers, government scientists, dairy farmers and industry lobbyists. Some of the research presented is highly concerning, such as the 27-year China study linking casein (milk protein) to liver cancer and studies linking Monsanto’s genetically engineered growth hormone (given to US cows and excreted in their milk) to prostate cancer. This dangerous Monsanto product is banned in everywhere but the US.

Among other significant facts filmmakers omitted is that many from specific ethnic groups (especially those of African or East Asian origin) become ill when they drink milk. This is either because they lack the enzyme necessary to digest lactose (milk sugar) or the enzymes needed to digest casein (milk protein).

The Raw Milk/Pasteurization Debate

I was also irritated by the portrayal of the pasteurization/raw milk issue as a matter of conflicting opinion. Numerous studies have documented that pasteurization doesn’t destroy micobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), the organism linked with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic, severely debilitating and sometimes fatal intestinal condition (see Mycobacterium Avium Tuberculosis).

What pasteurization does accomplish very effectively is the destruction of all the beneficial enzymes and bacteria in raw milk. Raw milk is used therapeutically in Europe for a number of health conditions related to dysfunctional gut bacteria (irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, diabetes, autism, mental illness, depression, anxiety, immune deficiency, Parkinson’s Disease, eczema and psoriasis).

 

The Federal Campaign Against Local Healthy Food

Farmageddon

Directed by Kristin Canty (2011)

Film Review

Farmageddon (unrelated to the book Farmageddon) tells the story of a deliberate campaign by federal and state regulatory agencies to harass small family farmers and buying cooperatives.

Kanty begins by briefly outlining the major food safety problem which has accompanied the boom in industrial farming and agrobusiness in the US. Instead of addressing the unhygienic conditions factory farmed animals are raised in (with animals being confined in small cages and pens with their own feces , Congress has imposed an array of useless regulations on all food production and processing.

These regulations allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct warrantless raids on small family farms and private coops. The film tells the story of various families who have been raided at gunpoint by federal and state SWAT teams – often where no or only minor infractions have occurred. Most face confiscation of their animals, product and equipment, as well as destruction of their livelihood.

Many of the raids relate to raw milk production. The latter has proven health benefits in asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis – due to to beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are destroyed when milk is pasteurized.

The laws regulating raw milk vary from state to state – in California you can buy it at supermarkets but can’t sell yogurt or cheese made from raw milk. In some states you can only buy it at the farm gate. In others it’s illegal to sell it at all. Although it’s legal in all states for farmers and farm cooperatives to produce raw milk for their own consumption, the film depicts SWAT teams shutting down several farms and coops for doing so.

In no instance, were any of the confiscated products found to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria. This is the implicit guarantee you get from sourcing food locally from farmers you know and trust: no  farmer selling milk that makes people sick will stay in business. The source of supermarket food, in contrast, is extremely difficult to trace.

The message that comes across loud and clear in this film in this film is that food regulations created by the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are written by agrobusiness. The latter are clearly threatened by growing consumer demand for locally produced, unprocesssed, organic food. These regulations clearly serve the interests of Food Inc rather than the public.

The Care and Feeding of Gut Bacteria

diet myth

The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat

by Tim Spector

Weidenfeld and Nicholson (2015)

Book Review

The Diet Myth is all about looking after our intestinal bacteria – which are ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of our digestive, immune, endocrine and nervous system. As Professor Tim Spector explains, all mammals co-evolved over millions of years with the bacteria that inhabit their intestines. Because these bacteria produce a number of vital biochemicals that our bodies are genetically incapable of producing, without them the species homo sapiens would not exist. This relatively recent discovery has led many scientists to classify the microbiome (the collective name given to gut bacteria) as a vital organ like the brain, liver or kidneys.

Civilization hasn’t been kind to our intestinal bacteria. For various reasons (overuse of antibiotics, processed foods and pesticides like Roundup), urban life has caused us to lose half of the septillions of gut bacteria we started out with. Nearly all the chronic illnesses that plague modern society (obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease, depression, autism, schizophrenia and possibly drug addiction and alcoholism) can be traced to loss or malfunction of intestinal bacteria.

For this book, Spector has chosen to focus on dietary research into foods that improve the health and diversity of our remaining gut bacteria. He blames the myriad of contradictory diet fads on the reality that each human being has their own distinct collection of bacteria. This means the foods that keep them healthy depend on the preferences of their particular bacteria.

Fortunately he’s able to make a few general recommendations that seem to apply to most people.

According to Spector, people with the most diverse profile of gut bacteria are the healthiest. The best way to promote this diversity is through a diverse fiber-rich diet that includes:

  • At least 20 different food types per week
  • A daily serving of 5 vegetables and 2 fruits
  • Daily servings of probiotic foods (fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut and miso, raw milk and unpasteurized cheeses) that contain beneficial bacteria.*
  • Daily servings of prebiotic foods rich in polyphenols that gut bacteria love**
  • A strict limitation on red meat,*** sugar, refined carbohydrates, transfats (hydrogenated fats found in vegetable oils, margarine and Crisco) and processed foods

Research also indicates that lifestyle factors such as exercise (athletes have the most diverse microbiomes) also promote bacterial diversity (and good health). As does episodic fasting.****


*These mainly provide different strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria that crowd out harmful inflammatory gut bacteria.

**Foods rich in polyphenols include dark chocolate, coffee, green tea, turmeric, red wine, onions, garlic, (uncooked) extra-virgin olive oil, roasted nuts, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, leeks, asparagus, broccoli, bananas, wheat bran and fermented fruits and vegetables.

***Citing numerous studies, Spector totally debunks the claim that red meat is harmful due to its fat content. He maintains the risk associated with red meat is the conversion (by gut microbes) of L-carnitine to trimethylamine oxide, which causes plaque build-up in arteries (in Europeans – this effect appears to be absent in other ethnic groups). He recommends that Europeans limit their intake of red meat to ½ serving or less per day. Those who eat more than this have a 10% increase in mortality. Those who eat one daily serving or more of processed meat (sausages, ham, salami, etc) have a 40% increase in mortality.

****When people fast, a gut organism caused Akkermansia cleans up gut inflammation by feeding off the intestinal lining. Research reveals specific benefit from the 5/2 diet in which people fast two days a week and eat normally the other five.