Farm Horizons, May 2010

Carver Co. dairy expo dispels beef and dairy product health myths

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

Are meat and dairy products unhealthy?

Anyone who has heard this question might want to consider the words of Dr. Lance Baumgard, an Iowa State University professor who dispelled human dietary myths during a seminar at the Carver County Dairy Expo.

“Many of the studies use ‘fuzzy math,’” Baumgard said at the expo in February, which took place at Central High School in Norwood Young America.

Statistics are often skewed to favor the desired outcome, he said, adding that people should be wary of an organization’s true motivation when looking at health studies.

Companies that produce cholesterol-lowering drugs, for example, are motivated to push the idea that high cholesterol is unhealthy, Baumgard said.

In a 1989 cholesterol study conducted on monkeys, researchers concluded that “11 of the 15 monkeys developed some type of atherosclerosis after consuming a high cholesterol diet.”

Upon further investigation, however, Baumgard discovered that the “high” cholesterol diet the monkeys were given was equivalent to eating 110 eggs per day.

Even official government documents may be biased, he said, explaining that the man who wrote the dietary goals for the US in 1976 is a vegan (strict vegetarian) who runs his own natural food co-op in New York.

“He had ulterior motives,” Baumgard said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the largest animal rights organization in the world, is another supplier of misinformation, he said.

“PETA has been largely unsuccessful in getting people to be vegetarians for ethical reasons, so now, they are trying to get people into it for ‘health’ reasons,” he said.

PETA has also gone under the guise of titles such as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the Center for Food Safety, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“They are all names for PETA, and they have a hidden agenda,” Baumgard said.

In Europe, PETA has put up billboards with messages such as “meat kills” and “feeding kids meat is child abuse.” One of the billboards even compares farmers to Adolf Hitler in the Holocaust.

Despite these messages, studies continue to show that beef and dairy products are high quality foods with potent disease-fighting molecules, according to Baumgard.

In the early 1990s, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) tested the effects of dietary fat and its specific components on a variety of human diseases.

“Dietary fat is one of most Americans’ biggest fears,” Baumgard said.

The trial included more than 160,000 women, lasted about eight years, and cost more than $700 million.

Results showed that there was no relationship between either total dietary fat or saturated fat on the incidence or risk of colorectal or breast cancer, or on cardiovascular disease.

In contrast, numerous studies have shown that milk components, including milk fat, can prevent the development and progression of cancer. Recently, dairy intake has also been found to be crucial in the regulation of energy metabolism, and has been found to help with weight loss.

Some people blame meat and dairy for the rising obesity in America, but Baumgard pointed out that from 1970 to 1995, milk consumption went down, while obesity increased.

Baumgard gave this advice from the National Academy of Science: “Good food that provides appropriate proportions of nutrients . . . should be eaten and enjoyed.”

“Worry about something other than dietary fat,” Baumgard said. “Have a milkshake and enjoy life.”

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