Drink Milk and Get Some “Backbone”

Special for Farmshine

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. – The vegetarian activist group – Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) – may have won a battle against the dairy industry, but they are not winning the war. Since 2005, this group has put persistent pressure on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to end dairy promotion relating to weight-loss, contending the advertisements are “false and misleading.” Even though the ads are based on sound, published, peer-reviewed research.

Earlier this month the FTC sent a letter to PCRM, saying that a meeting with USDA officials and representatives of the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board and the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board has resulted in the voluntary decision “to discontinue all advertising and other marketing activities involving weight-loss claims until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence.” News of this decision hit the mainstream media this week.

The dairy promotion campaigns affected by the decision are the “Milk Your Diet. Lose Weight!” ads featuring celebrities on television, print media and the internet and also the “3-A-Day, Burn More Fat, Lose Weight” promotions. The 3-A-Day message has already been modified to promoting a “healthy diet” versus “weight-loss.” The voluntary decision will shift the dairy industry’s advertising messages from weight-loss to weight-maintenance, but the industry will continue to support nutritional research that explores the connection between dairy and weight management and to report new scientific developments in this area.

PCRM won’t win the war because the benefit of dairy for dieting is a message well-entrenched in the arena of health and fitness today – based on the science, based on independent experts coming to the same conclusions, based on the real strength of what we all know – milk sure does a body good.

Nutritionists, doctors, fitness experts, and others are still spreading this word in books, in diet guides, in health and fitness magazines, in top-10 lists of summer diet foods. You guessed it: milk, yogurt and other low-fat dairy products are still touted as the protein and calcium-packed powerhouse among diet foods. PCRM can’t stop independent health and fitness experts from spreading this message, much as they may wish they could.

Just as the news hit the mainstream media that the dairy industry would voluntarily end the weight-loss related ads, there was a juxtaposition of positive milk news among the headlines this week.

Appearing on WebMD (the number one most trusted medical website for consumers) is the high-profile “Tips on Diet Foods for Summer,” which lists yogurt and low-fat cheeses and milk in the top THREE summer weight-loss foods. Dairy sits number three behind tomatoes and peppers (#1) and berries (#2).

The popular MSN News website, gives sample summer “belly-flattening” meal combinations in their health and fitness section. Low-fat dairy products as well as beef, are heavy-hitters on these dieting menus.

Even on the ABC News website, the Associated Press story about the demise of the dairy ads, was accompanied by a smaller inset story entitled: “Study says Chocolate Milk is Good for Athletes.” The study measured chocolate milk against popular sports drinks for its ability to improve recovery after intense exercise. Guess what? Chocolate milk beat the competition by a hair, and it was pointed out that it costs a lot less.

The chocolate milk article is really interesting. In three separate tests, fit athletes cycled strenuously, and were then “rejuvenated” with either a glass of chocolate milk, a fluid-replacement drink (like Gatorade), or a carbohydrate replacement drink. A few hours later, they cycled again until they reached exhaustion. The test was repeated three times once with each kind of drink, and the data showed the cyclists were able to go between 49 and 54 percent longer on the second stint after drinking chocolate milk, compared with the sports drinks. (Nothing new under the sun, right?)

On another news website, the “end of the milk ads” story was accompanied by a sidebar news item from a respected independent nutrition expert urging women who are concerned about weight gain and osteoporosis to simply drink milk (three-a-day to be exact). In her nutrition and fitness advice, the registered nurse, dietician, and mother of three, advised that milk plus exercise are the two best things a woman can do (versus commercial vitamins and medications) to strengthen bones and stay fit before, during, and after menopause.

As far as the dairy ads go… PCRM was unfortunately successful in bullying the FTC, the USDA and the dairy promotion representatives into withdrawing the ads. This activist group will not stop here. On their website, they also target pediatricians and medical students with their “nutrition” propaganda, stating that milk does not promote strong healthy bones in children, that fish really is not good for the heart, and they are bullying the March of Dimes to end animal testing used in birth-defect research.

PCRM’s position and motives are clear. We see who they are. The organization plainly shows on their website the ultimate goal of promoting a vegan lifestyle. (In case you’re wondering: a vegan is a supreme vegetarian, who abstains from meat, fish, and dairy products.)

Fortunately, the majority of respected medical, nutrition, health, and fitness experts, are smart enough to know the benefits of dairy products. They are also smart enough to see the work of this group of so-called “doctors” as a cleverly disguised anti-animal use activist agenda.

Too bad the FTC couldn’t see through it. I would encourage drinking milk for a stronger spine.