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Consumer reports dons the milk mustache

About a year ago, my husband and I bought a house. Our first housewarming gift was from my mother-a subscription to Consumer Reports. And it wasn’t too long before it became the most useful gift we got. Within a few months of moving in, the dryer decided it had had it. Soon after, the dishwasher joined its fluff-n-fold friend.

So we pulled out the Consumer Reports and looked for the brand that best suited our needs. (Well, actually, my needs. My husband “needs” either the most expensive model or the one with the most “space-age” features.)

So far, in at least four out of five major purchases in the past year, we deferred to Consumer Reports. Like many of you, the consumer in me has long thought of them as a hype-free zone-exposing the good, the bad and the ugly — to help us make more informed shopping decisions.

However, when I began reading the September issue, I did a double-take when I got to page 62. After reading which SUV in the big-mid-small class they recommend, I was floored:

What on earth are they doing writing an article about whether or not milk “does a body good”? It’s one thing to look to them to compare brands of air conditioners, but since when do we turn to them for serious dietary recommendations?

In a two-page “point-counterpoint”-style article, the magazine “evaluates” the health pros and cons of milk.

Throughout the article, Consumer Reports quotes doctors and scientists or their own consultants on the benefits of milk. At the same time, it refers to the controversial animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) as “Milk’s Critics,” offering little research or evidence to back up their points.

Conveniently, it seems any evidence that points against the benefits of milk can be easily explained away.

In one particularly telling paragraph the results of a 12-year, 80,000-participant study conducted by Harvard were completely discounted. According to the study, high milk intake appeared to actually increase the risk of bone fractures among 80,000 nurses. So how does the article explain this proof that milk may actually be bad for your bones? They turn to the lead author of the study, Diane Feskanich, Sc.D., who believes, “the reason may lie in the nurses’ family histories. It may be that those who drank the most milk did so because they faced the highest risk-‘but it was too little, too late.'”

But, did Consumer Reports explain how the researcher could so quickly dismiss the results of such an expansive study? Can they really be written off so easily?

The same happened when they reported on two large-scale studies from Harvard that indicate a link between milk consumption and prostate cancer. Though both studies mentioned showed an increase in cancer for those who drank milk, the magazine concludes: “Overall, however, the evidence has been inconsistent, with several studies failing to support that association.” (Note that they didn’t actually name those studies.)

Other concerns are quickly dismissed, as well. Those of you with colicky children or grandchildren, take comfort. According to the article, if an infant has a milk allergy he will likely outgrow it by age three. Try to hold on until then.

The authors even go so far as to recommend a strategy for lactose-intolerant individuals to reintroduce dairy into their diets!

Despite the heavily slanted treatment in the Consumer Reports article, there’s mounting evidence that milk may lead to numerous serious health problems, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, anemia, MS, leukemiathe list goes on.

And, as the 80,000-nurse-study shows, milk isn’t a particularly good source of calcium for those hoping to stave off osteoporosis. In fact, a study published more than a decade ago showed that women who drank three glasses of milk a day lost bone mass at twice the rate of the control group.
As for whether or not you should drink milkthis issue deserves much more than two pages in a magazine designed to tell you which trash bag will hold the most.

The majority of studies we’ve seen indicate that milk is not the health food the dairy industry would have you believe. Most, if not all, of the doctors and researchers in our network agree that, at the very least, the milk readily available at your local store presents more risks than benefits, as it is laden with hormones and steroids.

If you choose to drink milk, we at Health Sciences Institute recommend you buy only milk from organic dairy farms. But the decision on whether to include dairy in your diet should be one you make after reviewing all the research and talking to your doctor, not one that should be influenced by propaganda and cute marketing slogans.