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Page last updated:01-Oct-2013

Cows Milk MS Connection

There has been long-standing opinion that cow’s milk consumption has a role to play in the development of MS. The dairy MS link has been strongly supported by recent high quality epidemiological work.1,2  These researchers found a very high correlation between cow’s milk consumption and MS all around the world. Laboratory work from Germany and Canada now provides a possible explanation of why this may be so.3,4  A number of cow’s milk proteins have been shown to be targeted by the immune cells of people with MS. Further injecting them into experimental animals has caused lesions to appear in the central nervous system of the animals. The cow's milk MS link is further reinforced by the finding that certain proteins in cow’s milk mimic part of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein, the part of myelin thought to initiate the autoimmune reaction in MS.5
Not only is it likely that there is a strong dairy MS link, but there seems to be a link to diabetes as well, with similar suggestions now being made for cow’s milk being involved in its causation. Indeed, medical researchers are now so concerned about this that a worldwide study has begun in which children are being kept off cow’s milk to see whether diabetes can be prevented. Another very important study into the degenerative neurological disorder Parkinson’s Disease found that people who consumed more dairy products had 2-3 times the risk of getting the disease.6 This result is very likely to be correct as it involved over 135,000 men and women in the US, and used stringent methods for collecting data on food consumption. The researchers speculated that dairy products may have a generally toxic effect on nervous tissue.

The evidence about a dairy MS link is still not conclusive, but is highly suggestive and is strong enough for many people with MS to drop all cow’s milk products. Fortunately there are some very good alternatives, such as soy yoghurt. There are many reasons why cow’s milk shouldn’t be regarded as a particularly healthy food. Up to one in five Australian adults of British descent, two in five of Mediterranean descent, and four in five of aboriginal or Asian descent have lactose intolerance, and can get quite ill taking milk products. This can be in the form of mild or more severe bloating, flatulence, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Soy and rice milks don’t contain lactose. There are lots of good reasons not to drink cow’s milk.

The evidence is quite nicely laid out in Campbell’s best selling book The China Study.7 Campbell, a world renowned nutrition researcher argues from a very large base of accumulated medical evidence that the best diet for overall human health is a whole food, plant-based diet. For people with MS, the book is interesting reading, as he shows the links between animal fat and protein, and particularly cow’s milk, with MS and a range of other Western diseases. On the basis of the considerable risk potentially posed by consumption of cow's milk products by people with MS, despite a lack of conclusive evidence, OMS recommends avoidance of cow's milk products as part of the OMS Recovery Program.
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  1. Malosse D, Perron H, Sasco A, et al. Correlation between milk and dairy product consumption and multiple sclerosis prevalence: a worldwide study. Neuroepidemiology 1992; 11:304-312.
  2. Malosse D, Perron H. Correlation analysis between bovine populations, other farm animals, house pets, and multiple sclerosis prevalence. Neuroepidemiology 1993; 12:15-27.
  3. Winer S, Astsaturov I, Cheung RK, et al. T cells of multiple sclerosis patients target a common environmental peptide that causes encephalitis in mice. J Immunol 2001; 166:4751-4756.
  4. Stefferl A, Schubart A, Storch M, et al. Butyrophilin, a milk protein, modulates the encephalitogenic T cell response to myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. J Immunol 2000; 165:2859-2865.
  5. Mana P, Goodyear M, Bernard C, et al. Tolerance induction by molecular mimicry: prevention and suppression of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis with the milk protein butyrophilin. Int Immunol 2004; 16:489-499
  6. Chen H, Zhang SM, Hernan MA, et al. Diet and Parkinson’s disease: a potential role of dairy products in men. Ann Neurol 2002; 52:793-801.
  7. Campbell TC, Campbell TM. The China Study. New York: Benbella Books, 2006