Dear John,

I have an 18-year-old son who plays high school football.  He does not expect that he will play college football since he is 5'9".  He is however very broad and has a large frame.  He would like to get stronger and more physical.  He is interested in the diet you propose that consists of raw milk.  I am uncomfortable with this recommendation.  He eats well but is a high school boy and does eat the occasional sugary snack.  I would like him to start the diet in moderation and switch from one percent milk to whole milk to see if this helps him accomplish his goals.  What do you think?  Also, do you have a nutritional background or is your expertise obtained through personal experience. 

Thank you.

Ann Caravolas

CrossFit-Football-Talk-To-Me-Johnnie-Raw-Milk

Ann,

Thanks for contacting me.  I am glad you are taking a pro-active stance with your son’s diet and training.  Asking questions should always lead to positive outcomes.

With that in mind, why are you uncomfortable with your son switching from 1% milk to raw milk?  And since I don’t have the luxury of getting a response tonight, let's take a few shots at potential concerns.

I would imagine your biggest fear is the globs and globs of dangerous fat that your son would be ingesting with the consumption of raw whole (full fat) milk.

Lets take a look at that…one percent milk has around 1% butterfat content. Whole milk in contrast contains about 3.25%. This translates to around 8 grams of fat per cup for whole milk, with just 2 grams of fat per cup for 1%.  While you might think reaching for the 1% is the way to go, let's examine why “fat is our friend” when it comes to health, and more importantly creating a bigger stronger athlete.  As a result, drinking full fat milk will reduce the effect lactose has on blood sugar and insulin which has been shown to pay big dividends down the line.

1vs325

Let's take a trip back to the 60’s and meet a scientist named Ancel Keys.  Keys releases a study linking heart disease and saturated fat, called The Seven Countries Study.  In the study, he concludes that Americans eat too much, specifically too much fat, and the only way to reduce blood cholesterol levels is to reduce fat in the US diet.  At the time, the US diet was about 40% fat, mostly coming from saturated fat.  His belief was that saturated fat was the root cause of heart disease.  What Keys didn’t tell us is that he cherry-picks data in the study and with the help of the American Heart Association began to sculpt America’s belief that saturated fat (while glorifying polyunsaturated fats) is bad.  This anti-fat stance put us on our present collision course with obesity and sickness, and 50+ years later we are feeling the effects.  What the media and the AHA forgot to tell us was, the “Seven Continent Study” was debunked before it was even started in 1958 and many times after it’s release; unfortunately nobody bothered to listen.

Now, let's step even further back and examine a few hunter-gatherer tribes like the Tokelau, the Masai and the Inuit.  The Tokelau consume about 50% of their dietary intake from saturated fat, the Masai warriors in Africa consume a diet entirely of meat and porridge made from blood and fermented milk.  And the Inuit Indians survive on a diet of whale and seal blubber and meat with no vegetables:

“Our meat was seal and walrus, marine mammals that live in cold water and have lots of fat. We used seal oil for our cooking and as a dipping sauce for food. We had moose, caribou, and reindeer. We hunted ducks, geese, and little land birds like quail, called ptarmigan. We caught crab and lots of fish—salmon, whitefish, tomcod, pike, and char. Our fish were cooked, dried, smoked, or frozen. We ate frozen raw whitefish, sliced thin. The elders liked stinkfish, fish buried in seal bags or cans in the tundra and left to ferment. And fermented seal flipper, they liked that too.”

What did all these tribes have in common?  They did not suffer from heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, obesity or diabetes.

What I am stating is simply that there is no convincing scientific evidence that saturated fat is unhealthy. There are however, volumes of compelling studies showing saturated fat is both necessary and vital to all systems in the body.  The body even possesses a unique ability to turn saturated fat into monounsaturated fat through de-saturase enzymes.   When you examine fat and its effect on the body, saturated fat is the superior source of fat due to its stability and versatility.

In contrast to what America has been lead to believe and what Ancel Keys promoted; polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid, called linoleic acid, is a problem in the US diet.  I know you will not find this surprising, but linoleic acid is found in corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil, grapeseed oil, oats, peanuts and peanut oil, rice bran, safflower oil, sesame seeds and oil, sunflower seeds and oil, walnuts, wheat products, brazil nuts, pine nuts, hemp, pecans, and pistachios.

What is even harder for most to wrap their heads around is our bodies produce about 20 times more cholesterol than we can eat in a day.  Where we get into trouble is when insulin levels go unchecked, as insulin dictates cholesterol particle size.  Cholesterol particular size is directly correlated with hyper-insulinemia and small dense lipoproteins.  This small dense cholesterol is a result of excess carbohydrate, especially fructose consumption.

What we do know is that fat slows absorption of food out of the gut, thus controlling blood sugar and regulating insulin levels.  Thus allowing the individual to stay satiated longer when consuming whole milk.  The butterfat slows absorption and helps to stabilize blood sugar and the release of insulin.  While 1% milk has the same amount of lactose as whole milk, it does not have the benefit of extra fat to slow absorption.

And just for some point of reference, there are 2 grams of sugar in 1 ounce of 1% milk and 3 grams of sugar in 1 ounce of Classic Coke.

CokeVsMilk

Maybe it is potential weight gain that concerns you.  There is a thought that drinking whole milk will result in more weight gain than 1-2% milk.  The Archives of Disease in Childhood published a study where they compared weight gain and children who drank lower fat milks to children who drank whole milk.  The study showed that kids who drank the lower fat milks were heavier and more likely to be overweight later on in life.

“Our original hypothesis was that children who drank high-fat milk, either whole milk or 2% would be heavier because they were consuming more saturated-fat calories.  We were really surprised when we looked at the data and it was very clear that within every ethnicity and every socioeconomic strata, that it was actually the opposite, that children who drank skim milk and 1% were heavier than those who drank 2% and whole…”

This could be explained a few ways, as people who tend to drink lower fat milks consume higher amounts of high-glycemic foods and drinking milk with lower fat leads to increased hunger.  As I stated earlier, fat slows absorption out of the gut and allows you to stay satiated longer.

I believe we have established that whole milk got it right as nature intended and things only got dangerous when we started cutting the fat out.  But let's examine how full fat, raw milk and saturated fat can contribute to a healthy androgen profile.  For those of you that lift weights, having a healthy androgen profile is key for gaining muscle, strength, recovery and positive wellbeing.

The study, Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise, was able to show a correlation between higher fat diets and higher testosterone levels as fatty acids modulate testosterone production directly via the testes.  They compared testosterone levels of individuals consuming a diet of ~20% fat compared to a diet containing ~40% fat.  They reported a significant decrease in resting testosterone levels in those that consumed less fat.  The study also shows reduced amounts of exercise induced testosterone in male athletes that switched from a meat-rich diet to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

“The results from several investigations strongly suggest that dietary fat has a significant impact on T concentrations…”

Good friend and body builder, John Meadows, talks about saturated fat being shown to strengthen the immune system.  Lauric acid is a medium chain saturated fat (found largely in breast milk and coconut oil) that has been shown to have anti-microbial effects with reduced inflammation in the gut.

This is where there is an interesting synergy with full fat raw milk.  For years, raw milk has been associated with gut health due to the high volume probiotics and cultures found raw milk.  In the 80's, I remember George Zangas talking about the Vince Gironda's Stone Age Diet.  Vince's diet was one of real foods and raw milk.  He believed large amounts of raw milk were responsible for muscle growth and aided in recovery.  Arnold even was known to drink a protein shake of raw milk, eggs and honey in his post workout meal.

Vince-Gironda-Stone-Age-Diet-Raw-Milk-Power-Athlete-Talk-To-Me-Johnnie

The Harvard Medical School stated, “Bacteria have a reputation for causing disease, so the idea of tossing down a few billion a day for your health might seem — literally and figuratively — hard to swallow. But a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria. Northern Europeans consume a lot of these beneficial microorganisms, called probiotics (from pro and biota, meaning “for life”), because of their tradition of eating foods fermented with bacteria, such as yogurt…”

The human body contains ten times more bacteria than we have cells and having balanced and healthy gut flora is key to health and performance.

How does this aid in performance and muscle growth?  A healthy immune system is a direct result of a healthy small intestine, or as I refer to it, “the window to the immune system”.  By increasing the health of the small intestine, immune system efficiency increases.  This aids in the body's ability to heal during periods of recovery from training bouts.

Your final question asked if I have a background in nutrition, and yes, I do.  The only issue I encountered was much of what I was taught in school was incorrect when compared to the knowledge I amassed working with the experts I was exposed to during my NFL career.  I was fortunate to work with Mauro Di Pasquale and Tom Incledon during my NFL career.  Towards the end of my tenure in the NFL, I met Robb Wolf and Mat Lalonde.  Based on their work and much of my own over the last 20+ years, I believe the information we are providing is the most cutting edge nutritional information as it relates to performance on the planet.

And when I say cutting edge, I mean really cutting edge...so cutting edge, I am taking you back 100 years by recommending athletes eat real foods with large quantities of wild and grass-fed meat, vegetables, roots, tubers, eggs and fermented dairy much like what people ate in the country before the advent of the supermarket and packaged foods.

Since I answered your questions, answer one of mine.  What mode of thinking leads someone to question the safety of consuming unprocessed, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk from grassfed cows but not voice a concern over highly processed "sugary snack" we know lead to obesity, sickness and illness?