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The pros and cons of dairy

May 5, 2011

[A health feature in our April 7 edition provoked considerable controversy among our readers with regard to some statements about the health impact of dairy products. The two letters below present two different perspectives on the issue.]

The dairy dilemma
In response to a letter to the editor published in The River Reporter of April 14, I‘d like to address some points regarding the “virtues of dairy.”

I agree that there are many reasons to support our local farmers. These people are some of the hardest working individuals I have had the pleasure to call friends. They are pillars of the community who give our area the charm and beauty we all cherish. We are, as noted previously in these pages, very fortunate to have the opportunity to know our farmers and therefore, know our food. These farms are not the atrocities known as factory farms whose mass production undermines the value of our beloved neighbors’ product. Not to mention the value of the life (animal and soil) from which it is extracted.

The issue I have is one of nutrition. With the scientific research now available to us, it is misleading to market dairy or any animal product as nutritious. Delicious, sure, but nutritious? If anyone is truly interested in understanding how animal protein affects our bodies, read “The China Study.” It was written by Cornell professor Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD and is one of the longest, most comprehensive scientific studies ever conducted on nutrition. Another eye opener is “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins of the Baskin-Robbins empire.

A large number of forward-thinking physicians now recommend a plant-based diet for optimum health. One example is Dr. Dean Ornish, MD, who has been pioneering this movement for years. He has succeeded in totally reversing severe heart disease and certain cancers. This approach is in lieu of the long list of medications on which many of our loved ones are choking.

The recommendations made by physicians like these are based on science, not cultural norms. The society in which we live most often dictates what it is we eat. We are accustomed to the foods on which our parents and grandparents raised us and we understandably often take offense to someone challenging these traditions. This cycle is a difficult one to break but not impossible with an open-mind and the proper motivation.

We are fortunate in this country to have the freedom to choose what we eat. As noted above, there are many reasons to support our local dairy farmers. Nutrition is not one of them. There in lies our dilemma.

Paul Maopolski
Narrowsburg, NY