I have a bit of a penchant for talking about food myths. Mainly because, well, a lot of what our families have learned over the years about our relationships with food has come from… well, commercials.
And logically, what company is going to pay millions of dollars for a little ad that will turn people off from purchasing their product?
Just like the commercials for “high fructose corn syrup” a few years back (and the accompanying websites) trying to educate the public on what the concoction doesn’t do to you. Give the people a reason to be comfortable with the way of life they have now (one full of products laden with an allegedly harmful chemical), and they won’t raise hell. I work in marketing. I get it.
Milk is the same way. Tell the elderly that they need milk to help them prevent osteoporosis (essentially, your bones breaking into a few pieces.) Start telling women who, on average, are at least 4 inches wider than they were several decades ago that milk will help them develop and maintain a slimmer figure, and they’ll jump to snatch the stuff off the shelves. Give people a reason to feel good about something that’s already in their lives, and they’ll keep doing it. Give ’em a reason to feel pressure about doing it more – and make it easy – and they’ll keep at it. Easy peasy.
Even though I know this, I was surprised by the faith I have in milk… and how shaken I was by this article discussing how, apparently, 60% of adults cannot digest milk properly. What?
From USA Today:
Instead, people who are lactose intolerant can’t digest the main sugar —lactose— found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so —lactase— stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.
If you’re American or European it’s hard to realize this, but being able to digest milk as an adult is one weird genetic adaptation.
It’s not normal. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans. Sweden has one of the world’s highest percentages of lactase tolerant people.
Being able to digest milk is so strange that scientists say we shouldn’t really call lactose intolerance a disease, because that presumes it’s abnormal. Instead, they call it lactase persistence, indicating what’s really weird is the ability to continue to drink milk.
So, what does that mean? It means a few things, really. I’ll at least tell you what came in my head after reading this article.
- Firstly, if a majority of adults cannot digest milk, how many of us are drinking milk anyway and not being mindful of any digestive problems?
- Secondly, how many of us are allowing the marketing to rule our lives? How many of us are well aware of the digestive issues that we experience due to milk and ignore those messages because “milk is so good for you, is so vital to your well-being, and everyone is drinking it?” In other words, how many of us just assume blindly that since everyone else is drinking milk and they don’t seem to be thwarted by whatever these pains are, that it’s just “normal?”
- Lastly, how accurate are the studies that the dairy industry has been using to validate their claims? If anything, I know that scientists can put together a perfect study complete with damaging results. I also know how easy it is to turn that data and spin it on behalf of my company. Taking it a step further, I ALSO know that I can get pretty bold with my “spin” because the average person doesn’t go checking behind commercials or reading the fine print.
So, really… I can’t help but wonder. Did I get duped by phenomenal marketing? Because although I switched over to rice milk a long time ago, I still keep dairy in my diet because its healthy (more like, it’s because I’m in love with sharp cheddar, but that’s beside the point.) But if I can let it go, I’m on it.