Sunday, October 19, 2008

Got lactose intolerance?

Published October 19, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

As I was driving to work the other day, I heard what I’m sure was supposed to be a funny commercial. In the ad, a pretentiously voiced actor playing the role of scientist reminded listeners that humans are the only animals in nature who don’t stop drinking milk after childhood. I immediately assumed it was a public service announcement intended to raise awareness about the dangers of milk consumption.

Oh, but I was wrong. Sponsored by dairy farmers, this commercial instead made the point that Mother Nature made a great, big mistake with animals everywhere, and that we humans are just smarter than nature, hence our daily milk habit. Not only that, the “scientist” in question made the additional claim that if a grown sheep were to drink milk, he just might end up smart enough to take your job.

Let’s discuss, shall we?

This sheep…would he be drinking sheep’s milk or cow’s milk? Would a sheep prefer the milk of its own species, or would cow’s milk be superior? I mean, I drink cow’s milk, and I can’t really afford to lose my job. I need to size up the milk-drinking competition and make sure I’m on the same bandwagon, or should I say milk wagon?

Let’s assume for the moment that this sheep has access to both types of milk. It only makes sense that the sheep would prefer the milk of its own species over that of another. A new question arises, then. If I want to remain competitive with a sheep, would it be better for me to drink sheep’s milk, or should I follow his lead and stick closer to home? I am, after all, a human. I’m not sure where I could find a steady supply of human milk (I mean, I have friends with nursing babies…but we’re not that close).

Obviously, I’m taking a facetious perspective on the whole milk thing. It makes no sense whatsoever in my highly developed brain that we humans are drinking a beverage that was meant for the gut of a calf. Every argument I hear in support of milk drinking (up to 24 ounces a day?) follows the same nonsensical line into my brain and right back out of it.

Lactating mothers: Drink lots of milk so you can make lots of milk…never mind that cow behind the curtain who provides milk for millions of Americans without so much as a sip! Aging women and men: Drink lots of milk to prevent osteoporosis. Why, in Asian countries, osteoporosis is much less prevalent than in America, and they drink…uh, very little milk. Hmmmmm.
Everyone: Drink lots of milk to get your adequate daily supply of calcium. What? The more milk you drink the LESS calcium your body can absorb, you say? Huh.

I say all of this admitting that I do drink milk from time to time. Why do I drink milk? Because it’s the only thing that tastes “right” on my cereal or after a sticky peanut butter and jelly sandwich or with a couple of cookies. It’s a secondary food…an accessory, really. It’s basically a condiment. I just drink it with my eyes wide open, knowing it’s not really meant for me, and there will be more consequences than benefits with every swallow. I have much the same relationship with steak, candy bars, and talk radio.

I’m not about to buy into a load of bull from dairy farmers who want me to believe that I’m doomed without regular visits to a bovine wet nurse. Truth be told, I went dairy-free for 18 months a few years ago, and I’m on the verge of doing it again, only this time, for good. Strangely enough, I don’t at all fear losing my job to a four legged animal.

And considering all those sheep out there who are smart enough NOT to drink milk…well, maybe Mr. Dairy should update his resume.