In what I can only describe as PETA's latest inventive publicity stunt, prominent vegan and record producer Russell Simmons (in partnership with PETA) sent a letter to New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on Friday, congratulating him on the proposed ban on large (16 oz. or larger) sugary soft drinks slated to take effect in NYC next year - and asking him to expand the ban to include cow's milk and other dairy-based drinks as well. He cited a study that indicated drinking milk is just as correlated to childhood obesity as is drinking sugary soft drinks.
"A 2005 nationwide study led by a Harvard Medical School researcher showed that children who drank more than three 8-ounce servings of cow's milk per day were 35 percent more likely to become overweight than kids who drank only one or two servings (or a maximum of 16 ounces) per day. The study also found that replacing soda with cow's milk, which is loaded with artery-clogging cholesterol, provided no weight-loss benefit--none. In light of this information, my friends at PETA and I urge you to include cow's milk and other dairy-based drinks in your proposed beverage regulations."
Before anyone starts thinking Mr. Simmons is gunning for a New York in which our bones cave in from lack of calcium intake, be advised: studies show that bone loss and hip fracture are not affected by dairy or calcium intake; worse, countries that report the highest rates of dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fracture.
Also, like caffeinated and sugary sodas, dairy products are addictive. Milk contains an opiate called casomorphin. It's useful because it motivates baby cows to continue to come back to nurse at the teat. There's something similar in human breast milk, but the concentration of this chemical is much much higher in bovine milk.
In solid milk products like cheese, the casomorphins are even more concentrated, which explains why so many people want to cry at the notion of a cheeseless existence. On a more serious note, consumption of bovine casomorphin may increase the likelihood of infant crib death, and a Polish study in The Journal of Gastroenterology and Pediatrics showed the "drug" can even be transferred to infants through human breast milk.
I'm completely on board with Mr. Simmons' sentiment that cow's milk sucks. I believe America would be a healthier, more ecologically sound (sources report it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of dairy milk), and more humane place.
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Do I think it would be effective in the war on obesity to implement a city-wide ban on 16 oz. and larger cow's milk beverages? Not really. Do I think that Russell Simmons believes it would be remarkably effective? No, I don't.
The letter, I suspect, is a ploy to get people talking about the negative health effects of a product most of us have been raised to believe is wholesome.
And for that, I say soldier on, Mr. Simmons. "Milk" your fame for all it's worth.