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Dr. T. Colin Campbell, on his background in dairy research:

I grew up on a dairy farm, milking my first cow when I was 5, milking a couple of family cows for about 3 years when I was 10-12, then being in charge of milking a herd of 15-20 cows until I went to college. Then my doctoral research at Cornell on cows and sheep was for the purpose of advancing the consumption of animal protein like that produced in milk. I also taught my first course in graduate school on “Feeds and Feeding” farm animals, mostly for dairy cows. And finally, in my first faculty position, for about 8 years, I was Coordinator of a U.S. State Department funded research program in the Philippines designed to improve the health of malnourished children, principally to ensure adequate consumption of protein, animal-based if possible.

However, because I was simultaneously setting up a laboratory testing program for food carcinogens, I became aware of evidence that protein might increase human cancer. Long story short, this observation was a major benchmark in my research career, initially addressing (50 years ago) a potentially serious problem. I sought and received an NIH research grant (National Cancer Institute of NIH), which was continually and successfully renewed for the next 27 years, and which was initially focused on testing whether increased protein consumption increased cancer risk. The early research results were remarkable but over the next several decades these studies broadened into a much larger sphere of diet and health. My research findings were extensively published in highly reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals (350+ papers). 

Much of that early research involved experiments on the effects of casein (the main protein of cow’s milk) on experimental cancer development. Although not initially intended to examine the effect of dairy on cancer, the results were so profound that eventually there were major implications for a broad swathe of diet-disease associations that led to the publication of a public book, The China Study (2005), which has now broken the record for the most translated of all books concerned with health (at least 48 foreign language translations).

Dr. Campbell acknowledges that whereas a specific association of dairy with teenage acne has been acknowledged by many people, with a considerable amount of supporting anecdotal evidence, there is a need for more rigorous studies to better understand the size and specificity of this effect. However, a recent 2016 case-control study of 225 teenagers, 14-19 years of age, showed a highly significant association (P<0.01) of acne with low-fat/skim milk but not with full-fat milk supporting, according to the authors, several studies finding a dairy effect, but with low fat, skim milk. In a 2017 study from Norway, a 380% increase in moderate to severe acne was observed for 2,489 teenage boys followed for three years when consuming two or more full-fat cow’s milk. It is generally acknowledged that earlier studies on this association have been compromised by methodological limitations.

Teenage acne is the 8th most common disease worldwide, although this is mostly concentrated in dairy consuming countries, where 10-20% of teenagers suffer moderate to severe acne. Recent research studies, however limited they may be, convincingly suggest that the association of dairy with teenage acne is not only a relatively common problem, but that there is no redeeming value in advocating for increased dairy consumption among young people. This practice is even more questionable when follow-up use of dairy products, along with other animal protein-based foods, substantially increases the risk for other degenerative diseases later in life. Indeed, it has now been convincingly shown that diets high in animal protein-based foods associate with and cause a broad spectrum of serious diseases. The dairy-acne association is consistent with this broader linkage.

Read the article “Ditch Dairy for Clearer Skin” to find out more!

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