Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow's Milk and Your Health is what author Joseph Keon calls a ‘comprehensive look at probably the most destructive nutritional myth’ and real factors that are contributing to health issues, including the ‘epidemic of osteoporosis’ occurring in America.
Keon explains in his introduction that there is a great deal of information-squelching about the dairy farming industry, because the dairy industry has a great deal of financial clout when it comes to sponsorship and support of large campaigns and corporations. The author also explains America’s health paradox: the wealthiest, most health-conscious and health-obsessed nation on Earth has one of the least healthy and most overweight populations. He cites numerous renowned (and some not-so-renowned) experts in various fields of medicine, natural health, sports, food industry and nutrition to substantiate his claims about why milk is the host of many health problems.
Keon states that societies with low-calcium diets and a fraction of our daily consumption, such as Japan, Vietnam and China, are actually at less risk and have a lower prevalence of bone fracture. But the world’s biggest consumers of cow’s milk, dairy products and calcium - namely, New Zealand, North America and Western Europe - have the highest risk of bone fracture.
Whitewash claims that America’s love affair with milk feeds into the lack of objective information about the food. The US government has a huge role in supporting the dairy industry, which in turn has enmeshed its financial interests into government agencies and other business conglomerates to further compromise objectivity about the dairy industry. When the public relies on public health organizations to determine public health guides based on objective information, it is distressing to discover that much of the literature handed out by the American Dietetic Association and the American Heart Association is not completely based on reliable scientific data but food myths.
The success of the Big Dairy’s marketing has been phenomenal, but “the truth isn’t in the advertising,” Keon claims – it’s “in the bottom line.” He illustrates this point using the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign, which uses actors, for example, like filmmaker Spike Lee to promote the product. The problem with this ‘picture’ is that Spike Lee is African American, and one out of three African Americans is lactose intolerant. In the 1970s, the American Dairy Council was challenged over its advertising slogan ‘Every Body Needs Milk,’ which was found to be “false, misleading, and deceptive.”
Keon believes that the quest by dairy farmers to market their product has led to the myth of the calcium crisis, which has the American public believing that there is a shortage of calcium in the American diet. The author contends that this myth has led to an obsession with calcium that has caused a relative abundance of calcium in the average American diet. Also, studies show that cow’s milk does not protect humans against bone fractures in the way we have been told and is just one of the myths that Keon hopes to bust with Whitewash - because as he shows, an abundance of dietary calcium does not assure greater bone density or protect from bone fractures. Keon questions why a human child needs cow’s milk when more calcium can be absorbed from one cup of kale or fortified orange juice than from one cup of milk.
Keon then begins an extensive look at various diseases and how consumption of cow’s milk may increase the risk of developing them. From acne to cataracts, to heart disease, from allergies to obesity and cheese addiction, from SIDS, asthma and autism to ear infections and the real causes of osteoporosis; Keon addresses these and other diseases and health issues and connects them to milk consumption, namely components of milk and milk products. Keon states that the over-consumption of calcium actually causes the body to break down and eliminate calcium in the body, which ironically causes osteoporosis rather than alleviate or prevent it.
If you haven’t been put off or started questioning milk and dairy consumption yet, Keon goes on to write about ‘A Cow’s Life.’ This chapter slaughters the romantic dairy myths and exposes large-scale dairy farming with its
often deplorable conditions and inhumane treatment of the cows, including electrocution (accidental and otherwise), dehorning and de-tailing.
Keon points out the consequence of dairy farming for the taxpayer, from the government subsidizing and regulation of the milk industry to the National Dairy Council being a major contributor to congressional leaders. This relationship creates a reciprocal relationship between political leaders and dairy farmers which Keon believes leaves the taxpayer holding the bill.
Whitewash isn’t just about debunking the myth of milk consumption, it provides a possible solution to our problem by suggesting an alternative diet and other ways to consume the calcium and protein which will give the body the nutrients that are more effectively utilized than dairy products.
The foreword for this book is written by John Robbins, son of the founder of the world’s largest ice cream company, Baskin and Robbins. John Robbins praises the book and research, calling it a “key to liberation from unexamined assumptions about the dairy industry.” Though there is definitely a slant towards a vegan diet in the push for healthier living, it is eye-opening to read arguments against an American culture which covets milk as a wholesome, unbeatable food. The writing is concise, credible, well-researched and backed up by numerous resources. It is a thought-provoking read for anyone who has never questioned the worthiness of milk and will be a controversial read for those who love their cookies and milk.