(Don't) Got Milk?: Too Much Milk Redo

Mark Bittman, Anti-Milk Activitst? From MarkBittman.com.
So recently foodie and New York Times culinary columnist Mark Bittman reported we drink too much milk and purported his chronic heartburn ceased when he nixed the cow nectar. Now he confessed he's been conducting an informal survey of family and friends who apparently have suffered the same lactose-induced digestive disturbances. He's collecting data (i.e. emails from readers, great aunts, possible fellow subway riders?) and threatening to publish his results soon. As I've already said in my previous post, I like this man and his mission to make America eat better.

Yes Americans are too fat. We eat too much meat, too much processed crap, too much sugar, too many white carbs. I bought his cookbooks. I love that he's not a chef and doesn't want to make me or or anyone else one. I get it. I do but his latest digestive diatribe is yet another example of good intentions gone sour.

Milk is not the enemy.

I'm not the only one throwing Bittman's half-assed empirical efforts the side-eye. Will Fertman at HuffPo noted:

Bully for him. Some cheap self-experimentation sounds a lot better to me than a lifetime of antacids. But he should have taken the whole "it's not rigorous science" thing to heart, because the rest of his column is filled with bad arguments about dairy, and milk in particular, propped up with some highly dubious "experts".
The dubious experts? Check out my previous post.

Bad arguments? For one the claim skim milk has the same "calorie load" as soda. Sounds awful for the dairy industry until you dissect the claim. A cup of non-fat milk has half the sugar as a cup of Coke even though they have roughly the same calories.

That's right, skim milk or a Coke.  Which would give you acid reflux? HHHmmmm.

So where's the scientific evidence dairy triggers heartburn?  Well I for one wanted to know.  So naturally I went first to the American Gastroenterological Association for a little learning on a loose lower esophageal sphincter. It's not often I confuse an actual medical organization for fake news but because this story (and photo, can you say stylist?) was featured on the homepage it took me a moment to realize it wasn't indeed some kind of spoof.

Anyhow, the AGA wasn't giving up any evidence of a link between heartburn or GERD, it's more serious manifestation. Nor were the journal articles particularly forthcoming. Turns out, dairy is not even close to being the sole contributor to heartburn. Moreover, it's not milk itself but the fat. Although I could easily recite the food triggers from memory (my dad has suffered for years), here's a list from NIH:

Carbonated drinks
Citrus fruits and juices
Peppermint and spearmint
Spicy or fatty foods, full-fat dairy products
Tomatoes and tomato sauces

In other words, throw in some whole-grains and veggies it's pretty much my regular diet and possibly yours too. Fatty foods? Whole milk sure but fried or oily foods, say french fries, cheese doodles, potato chips, tortilla chips (with salsa), dough nuts, hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, steaks, bacon, sausages, a vat of salad dressing, croutons...

You could also try staying upright for 4 hours after eating or wearing sweat pants to the dinner table.

But hey, go ahead, just cut out the dairy and see what happens.

As for the state of public health, Mr. Bittman, please go back to doing what you do best, minimal veggie-friendly meals. I need you to do this and not scare kids or parents off dairy. Soy milk isn't the greatest, FYI and goat's milk, ughhh. Moreover I don't have much time (or patience) this summer to check out any more suspect calcium claims because truth be told my kids have decided they hate summer camp and would rather hang around haranging me. Also, kindly be aware as Will Fertman pointed out "humans didn't evolve eating broccoli either." So if you could find it in your generous, unpretentious heart, drop the whole evolutionary argument against dairy.


What Pale Blue Dot? said...

I'm always amused at the lists of things that give people heartburn. The number one thing that always gives me heartburn? A packaged grain product like granola or breakfast bars. I don't get it either. Those things on the list will irritate an already burned esophagus, but they sure don't give me fresh heartburn.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Okay WPBD so would that be whole-grain in conjunction with coffee or tea? I'd also add to the list another human being residing in one's uterus. I'll admit to heartburn after most of those on the list especially later in the evening except for dairy including Hagen Daaz with equal parts whipped cream and sad to say my newfound old friend, Magic Shell.