Doctors think cheese needs cancer warning
A nonprofit committee made up of over 12,000 doctors wants the government to require cancer warning labels on cheese.
Their recommendations are based on this study, which finds that dairy products contain trace amounts of hormones that contribute to deaths from breast cancer in humans. The doctors claim that milk contains small amounts of estrogens, and as water in milk separates out and becomes cheese, these estrogens become more concentrated and pose a greater risk to people who consume the finished product.
Your body reacts to outside hormones just as it would hormones it produces. Since estrogen levels influence breast cancer, doctors want people to know that cheese is a potential source of excess estrogen.
Do cheese and dairy products cause cancer? Should manufacturers label them like the tobacco industry has to label packs of cigarettes? Keep reading to understand the connection between cheese and breast cancer.
PROBLEMS WITH DAIRY
There are some issues with dairy as a food. Sure, it’s a good source of calcium, but you can also get calcium by eating almonds, dark leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, and other non-dairy foods. Here are two big issues to consider before you reach for milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Hormones in dairy.
A portion of the dairy cow’s estrogen ends up in milk. Conventional dairy farmers administer extra hormones to cows on top of what they release naturally, to make them produce more milk. The natural and artificial hormones end up in milk, and become concentrated when some of the water separates out during the cheese and yogurt fermentation processes.
Because of the way it is processed, some cheeses have the highest concentration of hormones out of any dairy product, especially if it is conventionally produced, non-organic cheese.
You may be intolerant to dairy.
There’s a good chance that your body reacts to dairy, whether you notice it or not. In fact, it is estimated that 65% of people have a reduced ability to digest dairy proteins after infancy. Babies come equipped with enzymes to digest human milk, which is similar but not identical to the proteins from cow’s milk. Once babies fully transition to solid foods, they stop producing the enzyme that breaks down milk.
You may know that dairy doesn’t agree with you. Or, you may be aware of your own limits. It’s possible that you know that sprinkling a little parmesan on your zucchini noodles won’t bother you, but if you down a bowl of ice cream, you’ll be gassy and bloated later.
Or, you may not realize that there’s a reaction happening under the hood. You may experience low levels of inflammation without ever noticing any symptoms, and inflammation has a huge role in the development of cancer, especially breast cancer.
Is a cancer warning on cheese responsible or overkill?
The U.S. dairy industry made a big push to market dairy products as healthy, promising stronger bones and teeth, bigger muscles, and claiming it is critical to growth for children. Dairy secured its status as a food group, complete with a daily recommended amount, and has had a prominent place on various nutritional guidelines for decades, like the now defunct food pyramid.
People are starting to understand that cow’s milk dairy isn’t required for growth or health. Any nutrient that you can get in a dairy product can be found in other foods.
Do you need to avoid cheese completely to avoid cancer?
One thing to remember is that our bodies are individual chemistry labs, and we all process foods differently. Your body doesn’t digest and use food the same way as your neighbor’s body does.
So, you have to consider your individuality when deciding what to eat. If you have a family history of breast cancer, it may be a good idea to limit your intake considerably. Or, if you have a dairy allergy or intolerance, you may opt to steer clear.
For the rest of us, there are ways to enjoy an occasional dairy treat without setting yourself up for health problems.
- Source grass-fed, organic. The only natural diet for cows is pasture, and if they eat what they were meant to eat, the milk they products will contain fewer toxins and inflammatory compounds. Along with feed, organic labeling requires that the cattle aren’t loaded up with growth hormones and antibiotics like conventional cattle are.
- Find cheese made from A2 milk. Conventional, mass-produced cheese is typically made from A1 milk, produced by larger breeds like Holsteins. A2 milk comes from smaller breeds of dairy cows, like Jerseys and Guernseys. Some experts say that people with dairy intolerances sometimes find it easier to digest the protein in A2 milk.
- Try goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheeses. Some people who cannot tolerate dairy products from cows do well with dairy products made from goat’s milk and sheep’s milk.
- Consider cheese a treat. A lot of people like the low-carb and keto lifestyles because you get a free pass to smother everything you eat with cheese. You don’t have to eliminate it completely, but think twice before you make cheese the star of the show. Think of cheese as a spice or flavoring, and use it as an occasional enhancement. While sprinkling a tablespoon of gouda onto your eggs one day this week might not cause you any problems, making a pizza crust out of almond flour and mozzarella, then topping it with sauce and more mozzarella might set you up for trouble.
One thing worth noting is that in western medicine, doctors aren’t likely to address food as a cause or a cure for much of anything. Most often, they reach for prescriptions as the approach to most ails. If this group of doctors wants to classify cheese as dangerous, maybe it’s wise to hear them out, and even change the role of cheese in our diets. It won’t hurt to scale back on cheese and instead fill your plate with healthy veggies and greens.