Wednesday, March 07, 2012

...Why I don't "Got Milk".

Recently, Harvard University hosted an extensive debate on the subject of Raw Milk vs Pasteurized Milk. It’s been a topic of hot contention for some time now.

In the realm of CrossFit, Paleo and The Zone, CrossFit athletes are sometimes confused about whether or not to even consume dairy, and if so, when.

Dairy is considered “Zone friendly” with foods such as cottage cheese serving as an excellent source of quality protein and amino acid sequences necessary for the repair and building of lean muscle mass, and milk being a perfectly Zone balanced food.

Over the years, many Body Builders, Power Lifters and Strength Athletes alike have tried the “gallon of whole milk a day” program to aid in putting on mass, (myself included). While this protocol can certainly put on “mass”, much of it will be fat.

A much better method is that recommended by John Wellbourn of CrossFit Football for their Power Athletes and Football Players trying to add quality muscle mass and size while staying healthy. The CrossFit Football approach is to basically eat all “Paleo” foods, yet allows for the consumption of whole milk immediately after a wod, stating; “One gallon of whole Milk contains 2400 calories. This is an excellent source of proteins, carbohydrates and fat. Dense calorie sources are a must, like whole milk and meats.–There is growth potential beyond calories by consuming whole milk. Increased IGF, hGH, insulin, testosterone come from drinking whole milk. These are all potent growth promoters.”

…I was asked by a client of mine a while ago who had just read a popular Paleo book that I let her borrow, “Why is dairy bad?–He says repeatedly how ‘dairy is bad’, but doesn’t go into the science of why.”

…Turns out, a lot of people have this same question.

There’s a lot of back-&-forth as to how bad dairy actually is for human consumption, even within the “paleo” and “paleo-ish” community. There is also a lot of “grey area” in regards to some of the science. The rhetoric around pro vs anti dairy get’s pretty silly sometimes. The anti-dairy proponents say “humans are the only animals on the planet that drink milk after infancy and that drink milk of another animal.” Those who wave the pro-dairy banner come back with “if you put a bowl of cows milk in front of a cat, it will drink it.” (Much like “If you gave a caveman a hot pizza, he would eat it!” Haha) It get’s kind of ridiculous. Yet when it comes to the actual science behind it all, you can get pretty in depth in trying to sort through it.

Regardless, some forms of dairy seem much more problematic to the human system than others.

One of the problems with some forms of dairy is that it causes a higher insulin response than glucogon response. Part of what we’re looking for when consuming protein is not simply the amino acid sequences for which to rebuild and repair muscle, but an overall glucogon response and thus a balancing of the insulin/glucogon hormonal axis. Dr Barry Sears, author of “The Zone”, covers the importance of balancing the glucogon/insulin hormonal axis extensively in his books, yet he approves of dairy stating that it’s a “perfectly Zone balanced food”.

However, milk causes a substantial insulin spike. The insulin index for whole milk is 148, and for skim milk, 140. According to Matt Lalonde, (Ph.D in Organic Biochemistry from Harvard University), the virtually identical insulin responses from both whole milk and skim milk indicate that the specific protein/carbohydrate makeup of milk is responsible for the observed insulin secretion, not the fat. Thus choosing a “low-fat” milk is in no way a healthier choice in this regard, (and is in reality an UNhealthier choice). When you look at cheese and some non-sweetened yogurts, you get much lower insulin indices. Cheese yields an index of 45, which is lower than say the 51 of white fish. So, according to Matt Lalonde, some fermented dairy where the lactose has been eliminated, preferably from a grass-fed source, can be “OK” for people who don’t have autoimmune diseases, though it shouldn’t constitute a majority of daily calories. People with autoimmune diseases should avoid it altogether. Period.

There are other problems with dairy as well. Casein is the primary protein in dairy and especially in milk. It shares several structural similarities to gluten. Just like gluten, casein proteins are rich in the amino acid proline and can shred the intestinal lining contributing to leaky gut syndrome and severe auto-immune issues. (If you are participating in our current Paleo Challenge 2012 and you heard Cliff’s kick-off presentation, then you are likely all aware of the many problems with gluten, including leaky gut syndrome.)

Mark Sisson of “Mark’s Daily Apple” (a great paleo blog I link to from my blog) and author of “The Primal Blueprint” acknowledges that paleo opponents of dairy say casein wreaks similar havoc on our guts as that of gluten, and that gluten intolerance goes hand-in-hand with casein intolerance. But he then asks if casein is a primary cause of leaky gut, or if it just slips in only after gluten has opened the floodgates, stating, “Once a floodgate is opened, any protein can enter and cause issues.” He then adds, “and after all, casein is the primary protein in human breast milk…”

While yes it is true that casein protein is the primary protein in human breast milk, Mark Sisson fails to acknowledge that the proportion of caseins, as well as their structure, in the milk of animals differs from one species to another (i.e. the casein in cow’s milk is NOT the same as the casein in breast milk).

A key area we want to significantly control/mitigate with diet is systemic inflammation within the body. Dairy seems to cause a systemic inflammatory response in humans. Some more than others. While there are multiple factors in this process, it is partly due to the casein protein. Casein has been documented to break down to produce the peptide casomorphine, (beta-casomorphine-7 or BCM7), an opioid that appears to act primarily as a histamine releaser. This peptide causes systemic inflammation in the body and plays a role in joint pain, digestive issues and leaky gut syndrome.

However, milk proteins are made up of different beta-caseins which vary between cow breeds. The most common beta-caseins are A1 and A2. A1 cows (Holsteins and Friesians) produce A1 beta-caseins, which release the problematic BCM7 upon digestion. These breeds of cows produce more milk and so are used by most conventional factory dairy farmers for mass distribution of milk to the public, as well as products made from milk such as cheese and yogurt.

Certain breeds of cows, such as Jerseys and Gournseys, (as well as sheep and goats), produce A2 milk that is free of the problematic A1 beta-casein produced by Holsteins and Friesians. (The often studied Masai people of Africa have cattle [Zebu cows] that produce A2 milk, free of BCM7.)

…There’s various other issues with dairy as well, such as causing increased insulin resistance, something we really want to mitigate. Several studies have also shown that dairy, especially milk, causes leptin resistance at the blood-brain barrier. Leptin is one of the most important adipose derived protein hormones and plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, including appetite and metabolism. Obesity is strongly associated with leptin resistance.

Several studies show increased risk of cancer via abnormally high levels of IGF-1 in cows treated with biosynthetic bovine growth hormones rBGH, as well as inducing post-meal hyperinsulinaemia, shifting the HGH/IGF-1 axis to permanently increased IGF-1 serum levels. IGF-1 can bind and activate the insulin receptor. In humans, insulin and IGF-1 signal the body to grow…both bigger and older. This is why dairy contains IGF-1 and is a potent stimulator of insulin secretion. IGF-1 is non-selective, thus it will make cancer grow as fast as any other cells in the body. The research also suggests the possibility that milk consumption during pregnancy could adversely affect the early fetal programming of the IGF-1 axis which could ultimately influence risks later in life.

Yes, …when training and eating right, we are indeed “striving to optimize our natural levels of testosterone, HGH, and IGF-1” so as to provide our bodies with higher levels of those hormones, yet when done through a combination of sound nutrition and efficacious training, there is a balance between the many hormonal axis’s. We don’t end up with so much IGF-1 that it shifts the HGH/IGF-1 axis to permanently increased IGF-1 serum levels like we see in someone who drinks a lot of milk. Doing Back-Squats wont give you cancer.

…But, let me digress….

I highly recommend you all check out Robb Wolf’s Paleo Podcast #68. Matt Lalonde is a guest in that episode and he is presented with some outstanding questions for which he answers exceedingly well. (You can listen to it in mp3, or download a transcript.) Not only is Lalonde exceptionally knowledgeable and thorough in the realm of Nutritional Biochemistry and himself 100% Paleo, but he calls out everyone in the realm of nutrition and points out all the flaws of the biased research being touted by all sides. Like Gary Taubes, he is unbiased and doesn’t buy into anyone’s BS. He rips the proponents of paleo with their flawed logic just as much as he does Senator George McGovern and the Governments flawed research behind the USDA food pyramid. Like Taubes, he wants to see legit science.

…Ultimately, when it comes to dairy, it’s your choice. Robb Wolf suggests removing it from your diet completely for 30 days and note how you feel, perform, etc. Then gradually re-introduce it in small quantities to see how it affects you. However, I would still highly recommend avoiding milk at all costs. Matt and Robb both agree on this; avoid milk.–Period. …Yes, Matt Lalonde will sometimes have a small amount of cheese, non-sweetened yogurt, ghee or heavy cream, but he makes sure to source it from not only Grass-Fed Cows, but Grass-Fed A2 cows that are free of the problematic BCM7. This is an arduous task to say the least, even in stores like Whole Foods or New Leaf. If you ultimately do decide to “go dairy”, don’t get low-fat dairy because one of the benefits of full-fat dairy is the quality of fats you’re getting, especially if it’s grass-fed. …Don’t drink milk, even if it’s grass-fed.

Robb Wolf still sees inflammation and allergy type stuff in clients trying to use grass-fed dairy. This is purely observational and in no way “scientific”, yet it’s of interest. …My dear friend, one of CFWSC’s very own, someone I’ve trained for many years, finally decided to try giving up dairy altogether for a month after having been “paleo-plus-dairy” for several months. After just a month, she said she feels SO much better and will likely never go back to dairy. …Another CFWSC athlete completely eliminated dairy from his “paleo-plus-dairy” diet and said that the chronic inflammation in his elbow tendons that inhibited him from doing virtually any pulling motion had completely went away. Despite his previous adherence to an otherwise all paleo diet, with the exception of dairy (whole milk after every workout in an effort to add some mass) he still had this chronic inflammation of the elbow tendons. Just to be sure, he reintroduced a small amount of dairy for about 4-5 days and sure enough, the inflammation in the elbow tendons came back. …Another friend of mine and CFWSC athlete (and Master’s Champion) has been very strict paleo for many months and seeing truly exceptional results. He decided to gradually reintroduce a small amount of dairy (cheese) just to see how it affected him. Initially, he hadn’t noted any real differences. However, after 3-4 weeks he noted that he started to get sick, felt more “inflamed”, especially in the elbow joints, and had overall less energy. He has since eliminated dairy again and is feeling much better.

If you absolutely need to do a bit of dairy but want to avoid BCM7, I’d recommend opting for Goat or Sheep based options such as Goat Fetta or Sheep’s Cottage Cheese. Both are available in most health food stores.

While I may, on occasion, have a little bit of heavy whipping cream in my coffee (NOT 1/2-&-1/2), …I will likely never drink milk again, matter how damned good it tastes.