, Harvard Researchers Claim Cows’ Milk is Unnecessary

Harvard Researchers Claim Cows’ Milk is Unnecessary

Harvard Researchers Claim Cows’ Milk is Unnecessary

Harvard Researchers Claim Cows’ Milk is Unnecessary
By Switch4Good

Most American adults, and even children, believe they should aim for three servings of dairy a day—thanks to the US Dietary Guidelines. From a young age we are taught to believe that by devoutly consuming dairy on the daily, we will be protected from brittle bones and grow up “big and strong.” A new scientific review published in one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, The New England Journal of Medicine, has put the benefits of milk into question. Humbly titled, “Milk and Health,” the thoroughly comprehensive review concludes point-blank that despite our government-trained devotion to milk, humans simply do not need it and are far better off without it.

Below are important topics covered in the report:

The Basics 

The review’s authors—Walter Willett, MD, DrPH and David Ludwig, MD, PhD—are both respected professors at Harvard University. Willett lectures on nutrition and epidemiology and Ludwig is a professor of pediatrics and nutrition. Combined, they used their expertise to review over 100 dairy-related studies to assess their position on milk as a health food. The authors offer their conclusions in several areas of health—from milk’s effects on bone mineral density to cancer, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, children’s health, and more. Within each category, the researchers found a significant lack of evidence to suggest milk lowered the risks in any of these categories; in most cases, strong evidence indicated detrimental effects of milk (and dairy) consumption.


Willet and Ludwig first examine the justification for the US Dietary Guidelines’ recommendation of three servings of dairy a day. The calcium content of milk is the driving factor. Initially, it was believed that drinking milk each day would help Americans maintain a high bone mineral density and therefore sustain strong bones throughout life. However, this assumption was based on a series of studies that only included 155 participants—hardly enough to base recommendations for an entire country’s population. Further, these studies were only conducted for two to three weeks; whereas Willett and Ludwig ascertain that drawing conclusions from such a short term study will lead to misleading results. The authors continue to note that countries with the highest amount of milk consumption also have the highest rates of hip fracture. When it comes to children’s health, long-term studies suggest the same—there is no overall health benefit to drinking milk as a young person. In fact, the authors noted one study which found that milk intake during adolescence in men was linearly associated with a nine percent greater risk of hip fracture for every additional glass of milk consumed per day. Willet and Ludwig just dismantled the central rationale for the inclusion of dairy in the US Dietary Guidelines.

Weight Management

Moving on, the review analyzes the effects of dairy and weight control. While products such as yogurt and low-fat dairy have been marketed as weight loss foods, Willet and Ludwig highlighted a meta-analysis of 29 randomized trials that found no effect on dairy consumption and body weight. Based on a number of studies involving children, the consumption of milk was seen to have no effect on weight. Ironically, studies found that BMI actually increased later in life for child participants who regularly drank skim or low-fat milk. While there is little evidence to suggest that milk will make kids grow “big and strong,” it seems that milk certainly has the capability of accumulating excess fat.


In the section regarding milk and cancer, Willett and Ludwig find a positive correlation between dairy and hormone-dependent cancers. Their reviews of internal comparisons studies suggested that both breast and prostate cancer were positively linked to dairy consumption. They suggest that the presence of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) in cows’ milk leads to an increased risk of prostate and potentially breast cancer.

 Cardiovascular Disease

Finally, the review breaks down dairy’s effects on blood pressure, lipids, and cardiovascular disease. It has been suggested that dairy can help lower blood pressure due to its high potassium content, but Willett and Ludwig found the body of research regarding this claim to be inconsistent. Further, the authors acknowledge the fact that in these specific studies, milk is often compared to unhealthy foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages. A fair comparison has yet to be studied. The authors state that they cannot accurately comment on the effects of dairy consumption and cardiovascular disease when the comparison foods tend to be red meat or a diet based on refined carbohydrates. In essence, past research has shown that dairy is not as bad as some foods (such as red meat), but that does not prove it is beneficial or even harmless when it comes to cardiovascular health.


Based on the available evidence, Willett and Ludwig conclude that dairy does not serve a beneficial purpose in human diets. While it does offer some nutrition by way of calcium and fortified vitamin D, the authors explain that the same nutrition can be found in other foods “without the potential negative consequences of dairy foods.” In fact, for those in low-income situations, vitamin D supplements are far more cost-effective than fortified cows’ milk—according to the authors. There is no significant health or economic benefit to consuming dairy, and the US Dietary Guidelines need to change to reflect that.

Below, discover A Scientific Report on Cow’s Milk, Health and Athletic Performance: the first known scientific report of its kind

Switch4Good commissioned A Scientific Report on Cow’s Milk, Health and Athletic Performance, the first known scientific report of its kind. This report consists of scientific independent and peer-reviewed studies, as well as essays from leading clinicians and nutritionists. This one of a kind review outlines the negative effects of dairy on health and athletic performance.

Quick Facts

  • The US spent $100 million to transport and store government cheese.¹
  • Dairy is the number one source of saturated fat in the American diet.²
  • Dairy contains IGF-1, which has been associated with increased risk of cancer and diabetes.³ ⁴
  • Dairy may increase one’s relative risk for breast cancer by 80%.⁵
  • All dairy contains bovine sex hormones.⁶
  • Environmental toxins can seep into cows’ milk. Cows’ milk is one of the most dioxin-contaminated foods.⁷

The report reviews dairy and the industry in its entirety—from the devastating chronic health implications of consuming dairy to the massive political aid, Olympic sponsorships, and marketing dollars.

Key topics include: Associations between dairy consumption and chronic disease; dairy’s negative effect on athletic performance; history of dairy marketing tactics, exploiting and targeting athletes; how dairy disproportionately sickens people of color; cozy relationships between the US government and the dairy industry; and optimum dairy-free nutrition for athletes.

The research and questionable history of the dairy industry speaks for itself: dairy is not a health food for anyone—not for kids, not for adults, and especially not for athletes.

To download the full report: A Scientific Report on Cow’s Milk, Health and Athletic Performance, Click Here.

About Switch4Good: Live Better. Do More. Dairy Free

For decades, dairy ads have captured the American audience by pulling at their emotions. These commercials aim to evoke a sentiment of family, love, and nourishment, combined with a sense of strength and grit presented by the athlete-driven campaigns. During the 2018 Winter Olympic trials, one particular commercial roused very strong emotions within Dotsie Bausch, an Olympian herself. However, what she felt was far from sentiment—it was shock and anger.

Appalled, Bausch watched from her living room couch as the ad declared “9 out of 10 Olympians grew up drinking milk,” as if cow’s milk played a decisive factor in these athletes’ success. She earned a silver medal in the 2012 Games and was already frustrated by dairy’s infiltration of Team USA. This was the last straw. She felt she could no longer stand by as the industry pushed its products on athletes at national training centers, or used these athletes’ platforms to sell dairy to the American public by way of lucrative athlete sponsorships.

Bausch sprung into action. She gathered together a crew—helmed by Academy Award-winning documentarian Louis Psihoyos—plus five other dairy-free Olympians. This passionate group would film their own commercial in response to the misguided pro-dairy ad.

This revolutionary commercial—which featured these six incredible athletes proudly declaring they had “made the Switch4Good” to improve their athletic performance—aired during both the 2018 Winter Olympic Closing Ceremonies and the pre-and-post-show Oscars. Fueled by the positive responses of other dairy-free athletes around the world, this tiny team of elite athletes blossomed into a full-blown nonprofit organization. Now over 400 athletes and medical experts strong, Switch4Good represents not only the elite, but the everyday athlete who just wants to live their best life.

Cow’s milk and other dairy foods have been linked to obesity, hormone-dependent cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Beyond these life-threatening illnesses, 65 percent of the global population is lactose intolerant, meaning their bodies cannot properly digest the lactose present in dairy. This results in bloating and other digestive issues, ranging in intensity from severe to mild discomfort. Further, cow’s milk has been shown to inhibit recovery in athletes, therefore decreasing their capabilities and overall performance. And yet, dairy is constantly touted as a health food for growing children, healthy adults, and aspiring athletes—effectively limiting their full potential while promising the exact opposite. Cow’s milk is not a health food unless you’re a baby cow.

Everyone has the ability to live better and do more, but dairy is not the answer. We want to live in a thriving, healthy, and prosperous community (or team), and while achievement takes effort on the individual’s part, the easiest barrier to overcome is by going dairy-free.

Dotsie Bausch Bio:

After concluding a prolific professional cycling career that produced a medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, eight US national championships, two Pan American gold medals and a world record, Dotsie Bausch has become a powerful influencer for plant-based eating for athletes and non-athletes alike. Named by VegNews in 2019 as one of the top 20 most influential vegans in the world, she utilizes her degree in plant-based nutrition to inform her impassioned messages as an advocate on behalf of humans, planet earth, and animals.

Never one to shy away from facing staggering odds – just like she did in the Olympics while riding for Team USA, whose unlikely and triumphant story is chronicled in the Netflix documentary “Personal Gold” – her latest initiative is founding the non-profit Switch4Good. Bausch is also one of the stars of the film The Game Changers (http://gamechangersmovie.com), which chronicles the story of the world’s most dangerous myth. Directed by Academy Award winner Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by Oscar winner James Cameron, The Game Changers released to worldwide audiences in October of 2019 and in just one week, became the #1 downloaded film of all time on iTunes.

Long before embodying radiant health and becoming an influential game changer, Bausch struggled for years with severe eating disorders and a recreational drug habit, that combined, led to a suicide attempt. It was during her recovery that she discovered her gift and love for the bike. Her website is Dotsie Bausch.

Bausch speaks passionately around the world, spreading her message about the numerous benefits – humane, nutritional and environmental – of plant-based eating. Her popular TEDx Talk, “Olympic Level Compassion,” has garnered over 275,000 views and has been a catalyst of change for thousands of people.

References →
1. King SS. Warehouses Bulge With Surplus Cheese, Butter and Dried Milk. The New York Times. Published July 6, 1982. Accessed January 20, 2020.

2. Identification Of Top Food Sources Of Various Dietary Components National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. Accessed November 12, 2019.

3. Christopoulos PF, Msaouel P, Koutsilieris M. The role of the insulin-like growth factor-1 system in breast cancer. Mol Cancer. 2015; 14:43.

4. Melnik BC, John SM, Schmitz G. Over-stimulation of insulin/IGF-1 signaling by western diet may promote diseases of civilization: lessons learnt from laron syndrome. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2011;8:41.

5. Fraser GE, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Orlich M, Maschak A, Sirirat R, Knutsen S. Dairy, soy, and risk of breast cancer: those confounded milks. Intl J Epid. Published online February 25, 2020.

6. Malekinejad H, Rezabakhsh A. Hormones in Dairy Foods and Their Impact on Public Health – A Narrative Review Article. Iran J Public Health. 2015;44(6):742–758.

7. Weber R, Herold C, Hollert H, Kamphues J, Blepp M, Ballschmiter K. Reviewing the relevance of dioxin and PCB sources for food from animal origin and the need for their inventory, control and management. Environ Sci Eur. 2018;30(1):42. doi:10.1186/s12302-018-0166-9

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