Monday, March 5, 2007


This post sort of belong with the Paleo-diet post, but this was the subject of my master's thesis, so it needs its own page. I'm going to cover a lot here, so hang on for the ride.

Next time I will talk about baking soda as performance enhancing drug.

I will continue to take requests. If there are topics that you want covered, please let me know. Remember that when you stop giving recommendations I'll have to revert to my own ideas. I've got a great post in mind about my use of soap.

Milk... where do I start. OK, my master's thesis established that there is a dissociation between the glycemic and insulinemic indices in whole and skim milk. (Now that I've got the first sentence down, the writer's block is gone so I will revert back to English).

When you consume a food containing carbohydrates your blood sugar will increase. In order for blood glucose to get into cells it needs GLUT 4. Insulin levels in the body will increase after you consume a food in order to bring GLUT 4 molecules to the surface of the cell and allow glucose into the cell. Normally, increases in insulin are closely linked to increases in glucose (this makes sense because the insulin is needed to clear glucose from the blood).

My thesis studied whole and skim milk. When you drink a glass of milk your blood glucose levels go up a little (GI=30 which is low). Blood insulin increases three or four times what you would expect. That really doesn't make sense because you don't need that much insulin to deal with the glucose in the system. But it happens and I don't think it's good.

Previous studies established that the glycemic and insulinemic response to milk were not different when a person consumed lactose (just the sugar component of milk). I originally wanted to study whether it was the protein in milk that caused the dissociation between the glucose and insulin response. Unfortunately, I blew up a couple of pressure cookers trying to denature proteins and then the milk was chunky and I couldn't get anyone to drink it (actually it didn't taste bad, but when the milk go stuck in you teeth it caused an almost instant gag reflex). It didn't take long for me to figure out that I could buy whole fat and skim milk in the store and I was able to determine that it was not the fat component in milk that causes the dissociation.

Sorry, that was a little side-track into memory lane. So who cares if insulin and glucose are dissociated? The real question is, what does your body do when insulin is high, but there is no glucose to go into cells? Your body will protect against this because you need sugar in the blood to fuel your brain. So cells become resistant to insulin so that your brain can continue to function. Insulin resistance is a beginning step of diabetes, so this isn't looking good for milk. I should also mention that your body is quite resilient, and I certainly don't think that milk is the sole cause of diabetes. In many people it is a contributor to diabetes, but many people will drink milk their whole lives and never have an issues with diabetes. The body is resilient.

Speaking of insulin, what else does it do? First off, milk will cause an insulin spike, but so will drinking diet colas or anything with excessive sugar in it. Chronically elevated insulin levels (frequent in people who consume lots of sweets) are associated with elevated levels of growth hormone, earlier age of menarche, increased height, increased obesity, increased cancer, and numerous other health issues. Milk is known to increase insulin levels and a recent study showed that regular meat consumption also increased insulin levels. Notice how milk is associated with increased height, not because of calcium intake, but because of elevated insulin levels that increase growth hormone. People will often ask me whether I tested organic milk. No I didn't, but I don't think the results would differ because this is an insulin thing, not growth hormone or whatever they shoot into the cows. I'm sure the growth hormone doesn't help anything, but organic will not solve the problems behind milk.

Yes, I just said that milk "building strong bones" was due to insulin, not calcium, so where should I get my calcium? Orange juice or other fortified stuff. Really the issue with calcium is due to expulsion and not intake. The US has one of the highest milk consumption rates in the world, and also one of the highest osteoporosis incidence rates in the world. Other countries where well over half of the population is lactose intolerant or don't drink milk for religious reasons have far lower osteoporosis rates. Do you still believe all that garbage that the dairy council feeds you through the food guide pyramid? Most people call it marketing, but the dairy council has succeeded in embedding their marketing in the education system so now we call it education, but they were just as wrong as when they called it marketing. Sorry, I have some issues with the dairy council, their marketing money is seeing its way into far too many organizations that are trying to promote health.

Recovery drinks (sorry, no transition there, I needed to get away from the dairy council before my blog was overtaken and the entry ruined). Chocolate milk is a good one because insulin is high and sugar content is also high which allows for easy restocking of glycogen stores. It should be noted that this is a good recovery drink for an athlete after a vigorous workout or competition. This isn't needed unless you have spent hours at your activity working your tail off and you plan on doing it again the next day.

Since I finished my master's thesis, I have not purchased any milk. We did buy a soy-milk maker which works pretty well, but no more cow juice for this family.

So where do we get our calcium? (I'm ready to return to the calcium topic after counting to 10 so as not to do bad things to the dairy council). Everyone in the family takes a calcium supplement (just to be safe), but I don't know that they are really needed. There are three components to building bone (not just drinking milk like the dairy industry would have you think).

First, your bones need a stimulus to build. Our bodies are incredible, they rebuild themselves based on how they are being used. Bones bend (just slightly) when they impact the ground or bear more weight than usual. The bending of the bone stimulates bone growth and inhibits bone breakdown. The absence of bone bending promotes bone breakdown and inhibits bone growth. In order to grow strong bones you must participate in weight bearing exercise (running, walking squats, etc.) Notice that swimming and cycling are NOT on that list, that is because they aren't weight bearing and many swimmers and cyclists actually have relatively weak bones because they aren't stressed enough to make them bend. So if you're here from fatty's, and you ride regularly, you need to be doing something else (like running or jumping) to stress your bones.

Second, your body needs to be neutral (as in not acidic). The typical American diet is very acidic. In order for your blood to remain at a constant pH, your body uses a buffer called calcium bicarbonate. Calcium bicarbonate comes from your bone matrix, is used to buffer acidity and is then excreted in the urine. The most acidic foods are colas, processed foods and meats, especially processed meats like ham, bacon, sausage and bologna. The most basic (as in alkaline) foods are fruits and vegetables. Even citrus fruits have a net basic effect on the body (I don't understand this, but I've heard it from several different sources, so I've accepted it). Grains are acidic, but not as acidic as meats. The best thing that you can do for your bones is eat lots of fruits and vegetables (as long as you already exercise).

Third, your body needs a source of calcium. Fruits and vegetables do contain some calcium (not much and it's not easily absorbed), and this may or may not be enough to build strong bones (that is why my family supplements). There is a limit to the amount of calcium your body can absorb in a day, so mega dosing calcium will just make for calcified poop. I don't want to downplay calcium intake, you have to have it, but if you're mega dosing on calcium and eating an acidic diet, you are still flushing most of the calcium down the toilet.

I chose that order for bone health on purpose... exercise, basic diet and calcium intake. It takes all three.

I think that is all that I have to say about milk. Tomorrow I will talk about the performance enhancing effects of baking soda. It should be exciting.


Taylor said...

Sans buddy, I hope I didn't offend you with the tree hugger bit.

Americans drink lots of milk. America has a high rate of Osteoporosis. Why are these necessarily linked? The Osteoporosis could be caused by lots of other things. Am I right?

Can you explain a little why insulin spikes are bad?

sans auto said...

Taylor, No offence taken with the tree hugger bit, I thought it was funny, so I played it up a bit.

You're right on with the milk, osteoporosis thing. I certainly don't think milk causes osteoporosis, but the dairy council sells us milk to prevent osteoporosis... It's not working. i would say that the link between milk and osteoporosis is NOT there, even though that is what many try to cram down our throats.

Insulin isn't all bad. Obviously it serves its purpose in getting glucose into the cell. Without insulin we're diabetic. BUT... chronically elevated insulin levels (which are associated with a sugary diet) will elevate growth hormone. That is a large reason that generations are getting taller (there are other nutritional advances that are also helping that). After you're done growing, growth hormone still stimulates growth... What is cancer--it's uncontrolled cell growth. Is insulin the cause of cancer? No, but it exacerbates the problem. Chronically elevated insulin levels are also linked to Leptin, a hormone that makes you feel full. Therefore you feel less full when you are chronically eating foods that keep your insulin up. Cells become resistant to insulin when it is chronically elevated, this is part of the cause of diabetes. Insulin isn't bad, but a diet that demands insulin too much leads to lots of problems.

Phil said...

I'm with you all the way on the "grown ups shouldn't drink milk" bit. I had a professor who dedicated a whole class to why adult humans are not designed to drink milk regularly, and I'm convinced.

I am a little confused though, you said: "due to insulin, not calcium, so where should I get my calcium? Orange juice or other fortified stuff." I'm confused on the connection of insulin and sugar. Doesn't Orange Juice have more sugar then milk (and even soda?). Is it just a different type that makes a difference?

And you mentioned that Diet Soda gives a similar insulin spike, so eating alternative sweeteners (splenda, neutrasweet, etc..) still puts you on the road towards diabetes?

sans auto said...

Phil, You're right, OJ is loaded with sugar, but if that is your only insulin spike in a day it will not do nearly the harm as the calcium will do benefit. I don't drink OJ, I get my calcium from pills. you could also get fortified soy milk.

Insulin secretion is initiated when your mouth senses sweetness. Splenda, aspartame and other non-caloric sweeteners are sweet, but without calories. That gives an insulin spike (it's realy not a huge one), but there's no sugar there to go into the cells. We're on the insulin resistance path again. The body was designed well, don't try to trick it.

Emily said...

whoa. im learning, but that one went a little past my comprehension, although I agree the dairy industry or any large business these days just ticks me off.

Vertigo said...


I have heard of a link between weight loss and the consumption of dairy fat. People who lose weight and keep it off tend to be those who consume dairy fat. Is that Dairy Council marketing? Or is there something of substance?

Is there a similar insulin response to cheese or other dairy products?

Another difference between NA and Japan. Over here, milk is only sold in 1 litre cartons and it is almost always at least 3.4% dairy fat (I have seen it as high as 4.3%), as opposed to whole milk back home at 3.25%

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Achilles said...

Hi Sans,

I recently came across your blog. I workout regularly and it mainly constitutes heavy weight training with hypertrophy as the primary goal. Now to keep the body in the anabolic state (not using steroids) I've been drinking fat free milk with breads every 2-3 hours everyday whenever nothing else is available. Some days I might consume as much as half a gallon of milk in a day. Now with the understanding that this much milk consumption might easily lead to diabetes, should I lower my milk intake to mornings/pwo? Or does your information apply only to regular people who are not doing extensive weight training? Any pointers you'd like to give for milk consumption in my case?