The Surprising History Of Milk

Original post from Care2



Growing up in England, I was required to consume a third of a pint of milk every day at school. I was informed that this was good for my teeth and my bones, and that I had better “drink up,” even though I didn’t actually like the taste of milk.

When a storm or tornado hits in the U.S., one of the key items people rush to stock up on is milk — right next to bread, toilet paper (and oh yes, beer). Milk has become a staple of the western diet, but it wasn’t always this way.

The Arrival Of Milk

The “official” history of cows’ milk begins around 10,000 BCE, when nomadic tribes decided to stop roving and to settle down in farming communities. (The unofficial history may have begun much earlier!) This era is generally referred to as the agricultural revolution, and with it came domesticated animals and the advent of by-products such as milk. 

Later, in ancient Egypt, milk and other dairy products were available, but reserved for royalty, priests and the very wealthy. By the 5th century AD in western Europe, we find that milk was taken from both cows and sheep, but that by the 14th century, cows’ milk was more popular.

But it was never the drink of choice amongst the general populace.

In England and other western European countries, in the 16th and 17th centuries, ale, beer or cider were common drinks, the water being unsafe to consume. Other alcoholic drinks, just as whisky, were also popular, but not milk.

If we jump forward to western Europe and the U.S. in the 19th century, milk was becoming more common, but only for young people: fresh cows’ milk was for babies only, although the further it got from the cows who produced it, the more it was likely to be contaminated by bacteria.

How Did Milk Become A Drink Of Choice For Kids And Adults?

Deborah Valenze, the author of “Milk: A Local and Global History,” believes that milk’s rise to fame was due to several factors that coincided at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries:

*  As infant mortality rose in cities, practices for making milk safer began to emerge. Louis Pasteur conducted the first pasteurization tests in 1862, and he is credited with revolutionizing the safety of milk and, in turn, the ability to store and distribute milk well beyond the farm. Commercial pasteurization machines were introduced in 1895.

*  The first glass milk bottle was patented in 1884 by Dr. Henry Thatcher, after he witnessed a milkman making deliveries from an open bucket into which a child’s filthy rag doll had accidentally fallen.

* A growing interest in nutrition emerged around the same time, and this led to the idea of treating sick people by giving them only the purest, simplest things to eat.

* Some temperance groups opposed to drinking alcohol pressed for the serving of milk in factories. They even set up milk booths in towns and achieved some success.

Eventually it all came together in the early 20th century. The first tank trucks for transporting milk were put into service in 1914, and by 1917, pasteurization of all milk except that from cows proven to be free of tuberculosis was either required or officially encouraged across the U.S.

In 1922, Congress passed the Capper-Volstead Act, allowing producers of agricultural products, such as milk, to “act together in associations” to organize collective processing, preparation for market, handling, and marketing of milk and other agricultural goods.

In the 1930s, milk cans were replaced with large on-farm storage tanks, and plastic coated milk cartons were invented, which allowed for wider distribution of fresh milk.

And so began the journey leading to the National Milk Processor’s ubiquitous “Got Milk?” advertisements, and the acceptance of milk as a staple of the western diet.

The Declining Popularity Of Milk – Does It Do A Body Good?

Cows’ milk remained extremely popular as a foodstuff for both children and adults for several decades, but U.S. milk sales have been slowly declining since the 1970s. According to Forbes, “2011 sales were the lowest since 1984. Whole milk consumption is half what it was in the 1980s.” During the 1990s those Got Milk? commercials boosted sales somewhat, but now they have fallen off again.

Today there is considerable doubt about the nutritional benefits of milk. 

Two years ago, Care2 posted an infographic with dozens of statistics that show why milk is not nearly as healthy as the dairy industry might want you to believe.

Several studies have failed to find any association between milk consumption and fewer bone fractures, one of its supposed benefits. Last year, Care2’s Kevin Mathews examined a study from Sweden that looked at the dietary habits of more than 100,000 adults for a span of 10 to 20 years. Surprisingly, those who reported drinking the most milk actually broke their bones the most, running contrary to conventional wisdom.

Could the dairy industry have been lying to us?

I’d hazard a guess that milk will no longer be a staple of the western diet in the not-so-distant future.   …………….’


Could a2 Milk Solve Lactose Intolerance Symptoms For Some?

Original post from NBC News


A new of brand of milk arrives at some California grocery stores this month as its makers pin their market hopes on a controversial theory that one tiny protein may be the culprit behind some people’s dairy-induced tummy troubles.

The beverage is called a2 Milk — a direct nod to a single protein, called A2, now fueling scientific debate.

Pasteurized and free of growth hormones and antibiotics, a2 Milk already is filling the glasses of folks in New Zealand, Britain and Australia. It doesn’t taste any different or pack any more nutritional punch than the cow’s milk in your refrigerator, say its makers, the a2 Milk Company, based in New Zealand.

But the product does contain the A2 protein. And some research suggests A2 is beneficial for people who feel queasy and bloated after drinking dairy, but who aren’t truly lactose intolerant. In fact, the inclusion of that particular protein makes a2 Milk resemble, chemically speaking, the cow’s milk people were drinking many centuries ago.

The company contends that it’s not lactose that gives some people dairy-related digestive issues — rather, it’s yet another protein called A1 that’s typically present in store-bought milk.

1 emerged thousands of years ago due to a natural genetic mutation within European dairy herds, said Andrew Clarke, chief scientific officer at the a2 Milk Company Other mammals, including female humans (think breast milk), produce milk containing only the A2 protein.

Because that DNA mutation was associated with high-milk producing breeds, A1 spread throughout cows in Europe and the United States. Today, dairy herds in the U.S. and Europe, among others, are generally comprised of cows that carry both the A1 and A2 proteins, though some cows may be purely A1 and others purely A2.

The so-called “old world cows,” namely those in Africa and Asia, continue to produce only the A2 protein, said Clarke. All milk sold by The a2 Milk Company, which developed a DNA test, is certified as being from cows that only produce A2.

During the past two decades, there’s been some research focusing on the health effects of A1 and A2. But it’s within those findings that the story starts to get a little curdled.

Some of this population-based or animal research suggests that consumption of milk with A1 is tied to the development of diabetes and heart disease, among other ills. That assertion sparked a firestorm of interest — and controversy — leading the European Food Safety Authority to release a 2009 report stating “a cause and effect relationship” between consumption of A1 and non-communicable diseases was not established.

The first peer-reviewed, double-blind, randomized human trial examining A1 versus A2 was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year.

Researchers found those on A2 reported less bloating, less abdominal pain, and firmer stools. However, only a small portion of study’s 36 participants described themselves as being intolerant to milk before the study began. Within that subgroup of eight people, researchers also were able to show differences in bloating, pain, gas and voiding difficulty, said lead author Sebely Pal of Australia’s Curtin University.

But that tiny sample size was “insufficient to show statistical significance,” or to offer conclusive proof, Pal added.

The next step in cracking this scientific riddle: a digestion study that involves recruiting more participants who self-define themselves as being intolerant to milk, Pal said.

At this point in the debate, many nutrition experts say the science is too preliminary to jump on the A2 bandwagon.

“The data (of the human trial) is equivocal and self-reported data always me nervous,” said Greg Miller, chief science officer for the National Dairy Council. “The sample size is small, and I don’t find it compelling in any way.”

“This theory (A1 vs A2) has been around a long time,” adds Madelyn Fernstrom, health and nutrition editor for NBC News and TODAY. “But there’s no real proof that one is better than the other. There needs to be a lot more work done on this.”

However, that little A2 protein isn’t going to hurt you. “I’m all for milk or dairy products, except for raw ones,” Fernstrom said. “I don’t see any harm in giving it a try if you have some issue with digesting dairy. Who knows? It could potentially be easier for you to digest — or not.”

This new brand, a2 Milk, will arrive at some California grocery stores this month. Makers contend its chemical makeup, containing a protein called A2, may allow some people to again drink milk without belly-disrupting symptoms.

While dairy has always been the darling of dietitians, U.S. consumers are drinking less milk in favor of other beverages.

But low-fat or fat-free dairy provides a lot of vital nutrients, including calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. It’s this nutrient profile that too many people are missing, said registered dietitian Bonnie Johnson, a2 Milk’s U.S. Nutrition Director and a 20-year veteran of the dairy industry.

“A lot of people believe they are lactose intolerant but have never been tested, and have stopped drinking milk,” Johnson said. “They may simply be having a hard time with the A1 protein and they’re missing out on some really good nutrition.”

If you are lactose intolerant or have a cow-milk allergy, a2 Milk isn’t for you. That’s because a2 Milk isn’t medicine, it’s milk, and it will sell for $4.50 per half gallon (whole, reduced fat, low fat, and fat-free) at Whole Foods and Ralphs stores in California as well as at some independent California grocers. If a2 Milk catches on, the company hopes to go nationwide.