Nov 252008

The Oprah Show was interesting today, looking at the Blue Zones — places where centenarians thrive in good health — and Dr. Mehmet Oz, Oprah’s medical guru, served as the guide for the show. Dr. Oz, with his partner, also writes a column for The Toronto Star, talking a lot about nutrition. He’s a cardiac surgeon; still, for a surgeon most of his expert opinions aren’t too off the mark. But the one he spouted today was the same old BS that I’ve heard on talk shows, read in newspapers, and heard people pontificate on too many times. And I’m getting mighty sick of it. He said the lactose intolerant should drink goat’s milk. Just hearing it makes me want to run screaming for the Buscopan.*

What a load of crap, I yelled at the TV. And why do I hear it over and over?

My father Dr. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy is a top nutritional researcher and was one of the first to recognize lactose-intolerance back in the 1960s and to evaluate methods for measuring intestinal lactase (one day I’ll tell the story behind that study!). So when I developed stomach pains after we moved to Canada, he knew immediately it was lactose intolerance even though no one here had ever heard of it here. And when I became intimately acquainted with my English Aunt’s bathroom, he knew the culprit: goat’s milk.

My Aunt started breeding goats to help rid her daughter of asthma, and so every time we visited her, goat’s milk and goat meat were regularly on the menu. I remember the first time we visited her after she started breeding goats, she poured glasses of fresh milk all around for us kids; I hesitated to drink the milk because I’d come to associate milk from Western animals as dangerous to my peace of mind. But she encouraged me. Well, it wasn’t too long before I broke the speed barrier to get to the bathroom. Too bad for everyone that there was only one in the house. Cow’s milk was bad enough; goat’s milk was lethal! Thereafter, I inspected my Aunt’s cooking closer and closer for hidden signs of goat’s milk — she’d toss it in anything, even my favourite baked treats, and then forget that she had — because even when I was sure it wasn’t there, my stomach would quickly let me know otherwise. So when all these experts talk about how goat’s milk is more digestible for the lactose intolerant, I think what a crock of shit.

Here are the lactose figures:

Cow’s milk ranges from a low of 4.66 to 5.15, depending on breed, with the common Holstein having 4.93 on average. Goats, on the other hand, again depending on breed, range from 4.54 to 6.4, with Saanens about on par with Holsteins, although some Holsteins have tested for much lower levels at 3.51. Goats, as you can see, can easily have more lactose than cows, or at best the same amount.

So next time some dingbat, even disguised as an expert, tells you oh yeah, goat’s milk is fine, don’t believe them for a second.

As for Dr. Oz’s contention that the fat in goat’s milk may be more digestible because of its smaller globule size, dairy research scientists at an international symposium on goat’s milk back in 1980 debunked that myth and posited the much more logical suggestion that

“Nearly 20% of fatty acids in goat milk fat are in the category of short and medium chain length (4 to 12 carbons). Cow milk fat contains only 10 to 20% of fatty acids of this category. This difference may contribute to more rapid digestion of goat milk fat since lipases [enzymes that break up fat] attack ester linkages of such fatty acids more readily than they do those of longer chains.”

It’s interesting to note that Dr. Jeejeebhoy made major nutritional breakthroughs in Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) for Judy Taylor because he included animal science literature in his regular reading. That’s why he didn’t fall into the big goat milk myth.


*Buscopan was a tiny little miracle pill my parents would give me to ease stomach cramps from lactose intolerance, as I couldn’t always avoid milk, being as no one else believed in lactose intolerance and asserted that I needed to drink my milk.

  • Laura

    You are generalizing from your own individual experience. How do you account for all the thousands of people who experience just the opposite — Who find that goat milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk? Maybe there is something else in goat milk that disagrees with you. Maybe you are the “dingbat” who thinks every body is the same.

  • Laura

    You are generalizing from your own individual experience. How do you account for all the thousands of people who experience just the opposite — Who find that goat milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk? Maybe there is something else in goat milk that disagrees with you. Maybe you are the “dingbat” who thinks every body is the same.

  • Shireen

    Yes, I suppose the man who was one of the first to discover lactose intolerance back in the 1960s and is still so foremost in the field of nutrition and gastroenterology that he continues to be in high demand around the world to teach and speak, would know less than a celebrity cardiologist about lactose, fat, and milk.

    Show me the studies that prove that thousands of people find goat’s milk easier to digest than cow’s milk. Not anecdotal — since you did poo-poo that as evidence, rightly so — but double blind, randomized high-sample-size trials.

  • Patrica_078

    I’m lactose intolerant and I can drink goat milk

  • Pffft. Means nothing. A person can be lactose intolerant yet be able to tolerate some or all of various kinds of milk and milk products and tolerance can change over time too. The gut can adapt as mine has now to most milk stuffs.

  • Very interesting and educational article.
    thank you so much for posting.

  • Marg

    How unfortunate for you that you suffer so.  Have you considered that you may have candida or leaky gut or
    maybe anxiety which cause IBS -which in your case you have already put mind in a state of  “something is going
    to happen” and it does.  Try Almond milk, see if it happens or better yet stay off all milk for at least 1 year and
    try again.

  • Lactose intolerance is a well-known phenomenon, which is separate from spastic bowel or irritable bowel. For some people with the former condition, the addition of lactase (the enzyme that digests lactose in the stomach) through pills or drops when eating milk products eases the symptoms or gets rid of them altogether. The latter condition is best helped with daily fibre, proper large-flake wheat bran fibre.

    Fortunately, I am no longer lactose intolerant. I’ve been told that it’s not so much that I’m suddenly producing lactase, it’s that my gut has gotten used to it and so no longer creates problems when I eat or drink milk or milk products. Awesome.

    Thank you for your comment.

/* ]]> */
%d bloggers like this: