Mom & Raw Milk

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



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.


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.


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.


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 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?

Posted in Diet, Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

33 Responses to Mom & Raw Milk

  1. Keith Queen

    Great read and really impressive answer. Gives me great ammunition as I talk about this with friends and training peers as well.

  2. Paula

    Outstanding article. Very well written, factual and pfc but all points are clear and very well presented.

  3. ShotgunPig

    This should end the milk debate if there ever was one. Excellent, well-written, thoughtful and fact-filled article!!!

  4. John_C

    Excellent post…enjoyed reading it with a big ol glass of post workout MILK…

  5. Murph99

    BOOM! awesome. stupid state law won’t let me buy raw milk in MD so I drink whole. I was able to buy half a gallon of raw milk in PA late last year (they don’t have the stupid law) and it was freaking good. did not get sick from it.

  6. Chris

    There is a lot of great information in here. Thanks for putting this out there! All I could think about while reading was I wish I had a glass of raw milk to drink right now.

  7. David Kerr

    Paleontology rules the body!

  8. JPizzle

    Awesome post. I’m gonna share this on my page.

  9. Anthony

    Boom. Tell it like it is johnnie. Great read.

  10. Maressa Fernandez

    At what age is it okay to introduce…my son is 7 years and I’ve had him on Almond Milk…should I switch him over?

  11. Matt Lahana

    John… You are the man!

  12. Salem H

    Maybe someone can help me with this: since it seems, from reading this article, the real benefit of drinking raw/whole milk is the consumption of the saturated fats, couldn’t you increase the saturated fats in your diet without milk? I typically stay away from dairy because it’s been shown to cause inflammation within the body. Thanks in advance for any advice on this.

  13. Drew

    Where the was all this knowledge when I was a freshman in high school? Back then the only knowledge we got our hands on were those dumb supplement sponsored bodybuilding mags and Anyone else here suck down Celltech like it was liquid gold, while trying to choke down Metrx protein bars that tasted like straight assbag? You know, following 18 sets of chest variant exercises. Thanks for a great article, again. I’ll use this article as a reference the next time I come home from the butcher with $200 worth of meat again.

  14. Philipp


    what do you think about lactose-free milk? I’m not sure if I am lactose-intolerant but sometimes, when I drink about 1 liter fresh milk after the training, my stomach feels sick after 1 or 2 hours. I guess it’s because of the milk but I don’t want to miss this drink with all its advantages.
    So what do you think?

    Thank you!

  15. Tom Caravolas


    I can’t thank you enough, my mom has come around and is starting to buy whole milk(for me only she still drinks skim). It isn’t raw milk and the most grass fed beef she will buy at once is 1 lb; however this is huge because she is very anti-suplements and anti-heavy weights. My Mom believes the best diet is just lots of fruit and vegetables (she calls peanut butter crackers “protein”). She tells me almost everyday to loose weight, but your article got her open one eye to the possibility that she doesn’t know anything about diet and training and that she should at least consider other views.

    again thank you so much!

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  17. Jaybird

    Your articles are always amazing!!!! Thank you, Jaybird

  18. This is a great post. You backed it all up too. Very cool. Grats on making the top 10 list on breakingmuscle as well.

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  20. Adam

    As a microbiologist I just have to pipe up and say that there are very real health concerns that come from unpasteurized milk. The rate of E. coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella infection are higher (according to CDC/FDA studies + common sense test) for drinkers of raw milk. These are more likely to be issues for the younger population who have yet to establish a healthy gut flora and immune system. No doubt there are healthy gut bacteria in raw milk that we miss out on due to pasteurization, but frankly we have no idea what a healthy gut flora looks like at the moment, or for that matter how it changes with age/time. Mark my words, a company will make billions once this is figured out – and I’m not talking about a supplement company, I’m talking about a full fledged FDA-approved pharma/biotech company. I certainly understand a mother keeping a school-aged child from raw milk.

    Pretty much agree on the saturated fat thing, though.

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  22. Excellent article and tips. You really can’t beat eating whole foods. for bulk. It really comes down to 3 things lift big, eat big, sleep big…

  23. David Peterson

    Great article. But why didn’t you address the safety of unpasteurized milk? You talk about the beneficial microorganisms, but not the safety of raw milk. Your piece is otherwise very well thought out. But you seem to ignore the gorilla in the room. I suspect that is the mother’s primary concern. Just yesterday, ESPN radio had Mike Golic milking a cow. The cow took a deuce that splashed all over and into the pail. What say you?

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  25. Matt Price

    Outside of just the milk debate I believe the evidence towards higher fat and higher protein diet was outstanding.

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  30. multibomber

    I will attempt to address your concerns regarding safety of raw milk. Here in San Diego, we have a company called Organic Pastures that sells raw milk to the local hippie marts. The company is based in Ventura, which is a 3 hour drive from here. It is a small, local company that you can talk to. Go ahead, dial the phone number on the carton. Since they have to show their faces twice a week to the hippie marts, their reputation is on the line with every delivery. One mistake, and their company is gone. They couldnt absorb the cost of even one lawsuit. So lets see how they can do this without killing anyone and risking their entire family business:

    The cows are grazing, grassfed cows that are not subjected to the disgustingly unsanitary conditions of factory farming. Since the cows are in much more sanitary conditions and fed food they can actually digest, they are much less likely to be sick, and infected, and since they’re not getting prophylactic antibiotics, they’re not going to pass on Multi Drug Resistant Organisms, which is what we should be really worried about. Decentralized food supply, free markets, access to the person bringing you your food, healthier animals, smaller batches, shorter transit times, all these are reasons why raw milk, at least from myt supplier, is safe… and no small farmer is going to sell milk that has been deuced into srsly.

  31. Jhon

    Very helpful article ..
    but i want to loose weight suggest me some diet or exercise?

  32. Matthew

    Excellent read. Perfect closure!

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