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Flash in the Pan

Milk, MILF and myth



The folks behind "Got Milk?" have been keeping busy. The California Milk Processor Board, which trademarked the famous slogan and accompanying milk-stache, has recently taken to defending its intellectual turf—including an acronym that sounds like milk and that many people first learn about on dirty websites.

The OC Weekly reports that a complaint has been filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization, an international body under the United Nations umbrella, against the web domain This is not the first time the owners of Got Milk? have gone after purveyors of GotMILF-related content (MILF being a popular acronym for a hot postpartum woman). In 2010, the board sued a T-shirt maker over shirts that read "Got MILF?"

While on its MILF hunt, the California Milk Processor Board itself became the subject of several complaints about false advertising, one of which led to the board being busted by the Federal Trade Commission for claiming that dairy products can treat and prevent obesity. (This claim appeared alongside a white bathing suit-clad, milk-mustachioed Sheryl Crow, among others).

There is a lot to be said about dairy products. They contribute immensely to the cuisines of many cultures, and contain a tremendous amount of calcium. Dairy products are not, however, necessary for human health, survival or well-being. Consumers and parents should remember this when listening to the spiels of dairy councils and other state and national bodies that are funded by producer check-off fees, and profess to be deeply concerned about you and your children's health. These groups, headed by Dairy Management, Inc. and the National Dairy Council, have a simple mission: to create demand for milk.

These groups' public message focuses on bone health and calcium. Health professionals are privy to an expanded version of this narrative, as they are schooled in how to manage "cultural behavior patterns" such as "dairy avoidance."

A different narrative, with different terms, is used in statements they make to dairy producers, or on public documents like tax forms. This narrative is more profit-oriented, and uses phrases like "barriers to consumption" and "unmet market."

One significant barrier to dairy consumption is lactose intolerance, a condition that afflicts various ethnicities differently, hitting blacks, Asians and Latinos the hardest. Thanks to the pro-milk propaganda that every American is subjected to from infancy on, millions of minority children are being inundated with the idea that they must consume something that makes them feel terrible, or else they'll grow up weak and fragile.


On Nov. 13, the National Dairy Council held an online seminar titled "Fact or Fiction? Learn the truth about lactose intolerance and discover real life solutions to maintaining good nutrition." Its intended audience were doctors, nurses and dieticians, all of whom could all earn continuing-education credit for participating.

The council's approach to dairy sensitivity is that anyone who thinks they have a problem should see a doctor, and anyone not diagnosed with lactose intolerance should consume three servings of dairy a day or risk the consequences. A medical diagnosis of lactose intolerance involves proof of low-lactase activity, "lactase" being the enzyme in the gut that digests lactose.

Now here's where things get a little crazy: People diagnosed with lactose intolerance, the presentation argues, should nonetheless continue to consume as much dairy as they possibly can, using strategies like mixing dairy with other foods, or ingesting live enzymes while consuming dairy products.

Andy Bellatti, a dietician and author of the Small Bites blog, has been vocal on Twitter about what he considers the industry's propagation of misinformation.

"The dairy industry loves to push calcium as the only important nutrient for bone health because calcium is the only one it can brag about," Bellatti told me via email. As Bellatti wrote in a July 2011 post, calcium is one of several important nutrients for bone health, along with vitamin K and magnesium (which helps regulate calcium absorption). Many non-milk sources of calcium, such as kale and Chinese greens, have high levels of these other bone essentials, he wrote.

"When one considers the array of nutrients required for optimal bone health, it becomes clear that while milk offers a few benefits, it is far from the perfect and complete beverage the dairy industry aggressively markets," Bellatti wrote.

If so, promoting dairy as the only nutrient necessary for strong bones could actually be a detriment to bone health. And suing people for selling GotMILF-related content certainly isn't going to help anybody's bones.

I've known since my 20s that I'm sensitive to dairy products, and can't handle as much cheese and cream as I would like to eat, for congestive and digestive reasons. I didn't need a medical diagnosis. I stopped eating it, and noticed how much better I felt.

Making sure I took in enough calcium to compensate for my dairy avoidance was a serious task. I also had to make sure I was getting enough vitamin D and other nutrients that milk is fortified with. I tasted my way through a range of imitation milks before settling on almond milk as my milky fluid of choice. I switched to mayonnaise instead of cheese, and I eat it with meat and vegetables. And I'm happy to report that the dairy avoiding lifestyle is treating me fine.

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