DURHAM, N.C.—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a nonprofit with 12,000 doctor members—is calling for Healthy Eating Research, based in Durham, to retract its recently released Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood report. In a letter to Mary Story, program director of Healthy Eating Research, the health authorities say, “The primary goal of this Report, evidently, is to establish cow’s milk as a lifelong beverage of choice,” which increases certain health risks among African Americans and other persons of color.
The letter to Dr. Story is signed by Minh Nguyen, MS, RD, a dietitian with the Barnard Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Kim Allan Williams Sr., MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Ill., Susan Levin, MS, RD, of the Physicians Committee, and other health authorities with knowledge of racial disparities. “The Report’s short-sighted recommendations will take a particular toll on people of color, particularly African Americans. It is incomplete, misguided, poorly referenced, and will do harm,” the authors state.
Regarding lactose intolerance, which affects 60-80 percent of African Americans, the letter says that “…the Report runs counter to the spirit of American Medical Association policy calling on the USDA and HHS to recognize that lactose intolerance is common among many Americans, especially African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, and to clearly indicate in the Dietary Guidelines and other federal nutrition guidelines that dairy products are optional. To describe cow’s milk as required or as the default option reflects racial bias that is presumably unintended but is nonetheless inappropriate and harmful to public health.”
The letter to Dr. Story also cites research linking milk to breast and prostate cancers and heart disease, which disproportionately affect African Americans. Research has also shown that dairy products increase the risk for ovarian cancer among African American women.
“Children who eat a healthful diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes need no other beverage than water, because they receive plenty of calcium, protein, phosphorus, zinc, vitamins A and D through their diet,” say the experts in the letter.
Jeanne Stuart McVey
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.