Devil in the Milk is part medical history, part manual on how to decipher the basics and subtleties of medical studies, and all righteous anger on how those studies are politicized and spun through greed
and human pride by scientists and food companies. This is health advocacy reporting at its most heartfelt, honest, and instructive.
Keith Woodford not only tackles the politics, misleading media ploys, and greed behind milk research and related diseases; he also highlights larger questions that go far beyond one industry. In a world where sound bytes are tossed about by different political, medical, and pharmaceutical entities, Devil in the Milk effectively shows how uneducated, miseducated and fooled the consumer (and fellow scientists) can be in our understanding of statistics.
Woodford begins by telling us
that there are basically two different kinds of milk. The differences stem from a mutated chemical string that has been found in certain cows. It’s a situation where human breeding has created a kind of survival of the fittest where the cows with the mutated gene dominates the
West because the opiod factor in the milk gene tends to make the cows more placid. These cows produce A1 milk, which is implicated
in autism, schizophrenia, heart disease and diabetes. (Of course, this is before
pasteurization, bovine growth hormones and other industry practices add their
own damage.) Then there is the safer milk from unmutated cows; one – A2 milk– is primarily safe. Unfortunately, farmers – and milk production companies – in the
West have been using mutated cows for ages. Change is difficult when greed is involved. Talk about a tempest in a teapot.
Who knew there was this battle going on between producers of A1 milk and A2 milk?
The tempest is rooted in two powerful winds: the first is greed, the second is the innately stubborn human mind. It takes about ten years to change a dairy from using A1 milk – the common form of milk in much of the
West – to A2 milk cows. That requires a lot of money – and convincing. Thus greed leads to more trouble of the ethical kind.
Author Keith Woodford, Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University in New Zealand, knows the ins and out of milk. He knows what milk producers want milk consumers not to know. He knows what milk producers themselves don’t want to know. This where the righteous indignation comes in and where complications, semantics, and concentration ensue.
The book is rife with semantics and scientific gamesmanship. By the second chapter,
"Milk and Casomorphins," the reader realizes that words used in studies have scientific meaning, are subtle, and are often subtly used by scientists who are willfully or innocently hiding the result of a particular study. Words such as “confounding,” “significance,” “prevalence,” and “incidence” are just a few. By the time one has read through Chapters 4 and 5 and seen how scientists have distorted the meaning of milk studies related to diabetes and heart disease, the word “milk” will have taken on a whole new meaning. No longer will one be able to hear statistics about “milk” or milk-related disease without asking about the study’s definition of milk and a whole host of other questions.
Highly recommended, this book is academic yet conversational and gossipy at the same time. It’s subjective writing on objective facts. It’s timely and definitely connected to contemporary issues such as health care, pharmaceutical dishonesty, and the guiling and beguiling use of media sound bytes. For academic reading, Devil in the Milk is pretty accessible. It’s an informational look into the puzzling nature of studies. The author’s successful attempts to bare all – about himself and about the industry he’s involved in – is quirky at times but definitely believable. And the book leaves one feeling angry, informed and empowered,
which is always a good thing - and which a good health book should always do.