The Milk Myth

Recently Australian Chef Pete Evans spoke to Sunday Night about his views on the calcium dairy myth and what he considers the dangers of dairy (sunscreen and fluoride too). In the story Pete say:  "the calcium dairy myth is the best piece of marketing I have ever heard". This prompted the writing of this article, to explore what makes many people question milk, when the industry is praising its benefits via advertising campaigns to get more to drink supermarket milk.

Argument:  milk is good for bone health because it contains calcium

Phosphatase enzyme is essential for calcium absorption into the body, so if it is destroyed, how can we benefit from the calcium in the milk?

Dr. Catherine Haug (whose credentials are B.A. biology, B.A. chemistry; post-graduate work in molecular biology and quantum chemistry) say that phosphatase is a viable, active enzyme found in raw milk, required for the absorption of calcium and other minerals in the milk

This enzyme is completely destroyed and inactivated by exposure of raw milk to the pasteurisation process. The Phosphatase test has become a way to determine if milk is adequately pasteurised by checking if the phosphatase is adequately destroyed, inactivated and denatured. This article explains that the enzyme is "rather more resistant to heat than the common pathogenic organisms that may occur in raw milk, in particular, slightly more resistant to heat over all ranges of time and temperature of heat exposure than is the tubercle organism".

It may be fortunate for the processed dairy industry to have a reliable yardstick by which to determine and control the efficiency of pasteurisation of milk with a quick test. However, this test shows that pasteurisation is destroying an essential heat sensitive enzyme that is needed to absorb calcium and other minerals. When phosphatase is missing the availability of calcium drops precipitously. Calcium is no longer bio-available. 

There are recent studies that fly in the face of modern advertising that say we need milk for bone health. A 2014 study suggested that women who consumed large amounts of milk may actually have a higher risk of fractures and death compared to others who drink less. A 2011 scientific review found that drinking milk did not reduce the risk of fractures in women. Three long term Harvard studies also show that calcium in milk do not prevent bone fractures 1, 2, 3. The three Harvard studies, when combined, followed almost 200,000 men and women for a total of 42 years. The International Osteoporosis facts and statistics suggests that each year osteoporosis lead to 8.9 million bone fractures annually; resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds. Milk is traditionally considered one of the best sources for maintaining bone health and for prevention of osteoporosis (weakening of our bones). So why is there evidence to suggest the contrary? Why is there confusion?

There is a difference between the milk that was commonly used as a traditional and good source of calcium many decades ago (raw unpasteurised milk), and the milk that is freely available today on supermarket shelves. There is also a huge denial about the significance of that difference.

"When (calcium is) bound by casein, however, it cannot be absorbed and passes out of the body without being utilised."

In another article Dr. Catherine say that the calcium binds with casein (a milk protein) when milk is heated. "When bound by casein, however, it cannot be absorbed and passes out of the body without being utilised. Cheese makers know this problem only too well: free calcium is required for formation of a curd (cheese), but calcium in pasteurised milk is not free; a curd will not form without adding calcium." In another article she says: "When milk’s calcium is bound by the degraded casein protein (from pasteurisation), it is no longer available to support the curd. It is also not available to support the skeletal system, among other functions. Instead, it passes out of the body, un-utilised". 

There are many more disadvantages to pasteurisation of dairy that will not be discussed. The evidence above may be sufficient to show why pasteurisation harm dairy's value in some consumer's eyes. Hiding this information will not change the fact that a large portion of society cannot tolerate processed dairy anymore. Mainstream media continue to be in ignorance about certain crucial differences in food quality and food production methods. It may be one of the reasons why Paleo Pete Evans will continue to be demonised by the Australian media for his controversial food choices, and perhaps also because his following are now in the millions. Also see:  Microphotography of Raw & Processed Milk.

Image: a snapshot from this article, click to enlarge.

According to the diagram in this article between 60 - 90% of Australians cannot easily digest lactose. It is called lactose intolerance. This is partly because pasteurisation destroys the enzyme lactase that is needed to break down the lactose sugar in the small intestine. There is a variety of reasons why people are allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant that won't be discussed in this article. See this video by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to learn more about lactose intolerance.


"Raw milk contains the enzymes phosphatase, essential for the absorption of calcium; lipase, which aids in the digestion of fats; and lactase, which helps with the digestion of lactose. Pasteurisation, however, destroys all three of these enzymes." source


The destruction of the phosphatase enzyme, and the calcium in the milk that binds to the degraded casein protein due to pasteurisation (heat treatment), essentially means that the body cannot utilise the calcium in the milk. Pasteurised milk is a huge money maker for supermarkets and for the milk processors who report billions of dollars in profit for their shareholders annually. And anti-raw milk laws keep the competition, who have a great product (when it is produced according to world best practise), at bay. What a dilemma?


Image:   Catherine Haug via the  Missoulian

Image: Catherine Haug via the Missoulian

Dr. Catherine Haug holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University, and conducted five years of postgraduate work in molecular biology at the University of Oregon and in quantum chemistry at Portland State University. She is also an avid RAW MILK advocate. She has been writing articles about the health benefits of raw milk while trying to get raw milk legalised in her native state of Montana.  In one of her latest articles she says that her university and graduate studies in biology and chemistry helped her to learn why pasteurised milk caused her health issues, while raw milk supported and improved her health. She discovered these things after a move to Oregon where the sale of raw milk is legal. She says her gut health issues and headaches went away as long as she used only raw milk.

Raw Milk: A Real, Natural & Perfect Food

In the article above she lists her sources/references, of which she says most are peer-reviewed, scholarly articles or articles written by licensed medical doctors.

Related Articles:

Articles by Dr. Catherine Haug:

Raw Milk: A Real, Natural & Perfect Food

Letters published 19 March 2017

Fresh, raw milk boasts major advantages

Many prefer raw milk for good reasons

Letter: Raw Milk is safe and healthy and here's why

Food-borne Illnesses/Outbreaks Includes Raw vs Pasteurized Milk


Articles about Pete Evans and dairy:

Video: Sunday Night: Pete Evans defends dairy claims

Pete Evans answers his critics Part 1

Pete Evans answers his critics Part 2

Pete Evans launches attack on media

AMA accuses Pete Evans of endangering lives with unscientific health advice

‘Paleo Pete’ Evans tells osteoporosis sufferer to ditch dairy because it ‘removes calcium’ from bones

'You are a chef, NOT a doctor': Pete Evans slammed for dairy medical advice

Nutritional expert Nora Gedgaudas' blogpost on dairy is shared on Chef Pete Evan's Facebook page

‘Paleo’ Pete Evans takes a sharpened sword to his critics

Video:  A Current Affair on Paleo Pete


Articles on the enzyme Phosphatase:

More About Enzymes

Milk Enzymes

A Brief Review on Alkaline Phosphatase Methodology

Pasteurisation failure prompts recall of half and half

Video:  5 Minute Alkaline Phosphatase test in milk

Dairy products and the French paradox: Could alkaline phosphatases play a role?



Raw milk talking points

Video: Soured Milk and pasteurisation (an Australian microbiologist discusses the degradation of fats and enzymes and denaturing of protein from time marker 1:45, the calcium that binds to the proteins are discussed at 4:35)

The Milk Myth: What Your Body Really Needs

Don't Be Misled By Dairy Ads

Getting Clarity About Calcium

Mark McAfee (chairman of the Raw Milk Institute) spoke about alkaline phosphatase in this video at 5 minutes time marker

Debunking The Milk Myth: Why Milk Is Bad For You And Your Bones

Raw Cow’s Milk has asthma protective capacity and heated raw milk did not show and asthma protective effect, which indicates the involvement of heat sensitive components

Best Cow’s Milk To Use For Cheese Making

Video:  Drinking milk may lead to earlier death, study suggests

Probiotics halve bone loss in elderly

Study:  Probiotics can protect the skeletons of older women