Dear Mark: Full-Fat Dairy Roundup

DairyLast week, I wrote about how the available evidence indicates that full-fat dairy is a very healthy, nutritious source of food for people who tolerate it. The comment section exploded with questions, so I figured I’d use this week’s “Dear Mark” to answer most of them. First up is a question about dairy’s oft-reported positive effect on weight gain. Next, I briefly go over the A1/A2 milk issue. Is it something you actually have to worry about? (Maybe.) After that, I discuss whether dairy has to be raw to be worth eating (or drinking), and I give my rationale for choosing the dairy that I do. Then I give my take on why the osteoporosis rates in the United States are high despite our high dairy consumption, followed by whether using inflammatory forms of dairy to heighten the post-workout spike in inflammatory markers makes sense. And finally, does a gluten intolerance make dairy more problematic?

Let’s go:

I do wonder, though, why dairy is often implicated in weight gain (or weight loss stalls). Is it simply a matter of a calorically dense food that is easy to overeat? Or is there something else going on?

There seems to be conflicting evidence, doesn’t there? On the one hand, the bulk of available studies suggest an inverse association between dairy intake and weight gain – people who eat the most dairy, whether it’s cheese, milk, butter, or yogurt, seem to lose the most or gain the least weight.

Yet anecdotal reports often contradict the published research. They don’t pass peer review, but we can’t discount them entirely. Not everyone is lying or deluded about their experiences, believe it or not.

One explanation: it’s individual. Some people gain weight on dairy, some people lose it, some people remain at the same weight, and this can be reflected in the studies. Even if a few participants gained weight in one trial, the overall trend could be weight loss or stasis if the mean (average) effect on weight was neutral or negative. Outliers always exist. In fact, we’re generally all outliers from each other.

Another explanation: weight gained from dairy is both lean and fat – bones, muscle, and, yeah, maybe some adipose tissue. The scale never tells the entire story.

Yet another: dairy is calorically-dense, delicious, and easy for some to overeat. Particularly if you’re talking liquid dairy. Anytime you’re consuming caloric liquids, you run the risk of overdoing it. Chugging a big glass of milk might be the quickest way to eat a bunch of food at once.

Still another: among the Primal/ancestral/paleo community, dairy is a frequent topic of discussion and experimentation. People are constantly wondering about dairy’s place in their diet and “throwing it in” to see “how it affects them.” They’re adding whole milk to their post-workout meal. Incorporating a snack of aged cheese. Adding a cup of yogurt to their berries. In most cases, people are adding dairy to their diet without removing anything. They’re increasing their overall food intake. This can increase body weight.

What do you think about A1 versus A2 milk?

There’s a lot of literature to sift through, including an entire book (Devil in the Milk), so I’ll try to summarize my big takeaway.

A1 and A2 refer to two types of beta-casein (a protein) found in milk. A1 milk has mostly A1 beta-casein and A2 milk has mostly A2 beta-casein. Essentially all mammalian milk studied has beta-casein, but only certain (“newer”) breeds of cattle, like Holsteins, make significant amounts of A1 beta-casein. Goats, sheep, humans, and some other (“older”) breeds of cattle like Jerseys mostly produce A2 beta-casein. Why might this matter? What exactly is the issue?

When A1 beta-casein is digested, one of the byproducts is beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM7). BCM7 is a peptide that acts a bit like an opioid (hence “morphin”), and if it can resist complete digestion and get through the gut lining into the bloodstream, BCM7 seems to cause problems. Keith Woodford (author of Devil in the Milk) lays out the issues in a 2011 paper here (PDF).

But it sounds like intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is a prerequisite for damage to occur.

For the first six or so months of their lives, infants have a leaky gut by design. It allows the passage of larger, beneficial protein fragments, like from their mother’s colostrum, into the bloodstream. In infants fed formula made with A1 cow milk (which is most of them), a baby’s leaky gut also allows BCM7 into the bloodstream. A study found that formula-fed infants showed elevated serum levels of bovine BCM7, especially among subjects with a genetic defect in the enzyme that breaks down BCM7. This effect was most pronounced during the first 3 months, when the gut is leakiest. High levels of bovine BCM7 were also correlated with delayed psychomotor development. The breastfed group also had BCM7 in the blood, but human BCM7; this was correlated with normal psychomotor development.

The purported links between A1 milk consumption and type 1 diabetes also appear to be mediated by the age of consumption (and thus leaky gut). A1 milk during the first two years (when the gut tends to be leakier) of life was associated with type 1 diabetes, while A1 milk consumption during the early adolescent years (when the gut tends to be less permeable) was not.

So, is it a problem? I’m not sure. Maybe for infants, although BCM7 in the blood may simply be a marker of formula feeding (which we already know to be inferior to breastfeeding). Maybe for people with leaky gut. However, I question whether A1 BCM7 makes it through intact, adult (or even teenage) gut linings. If A1 milk is a problem, I think it probably depends on your gut health – like so many other things.

Here in northern Canada, we can only get organic full fat pasteurized dairy products. I would really like to know if there is any benefit to eating them when they are all pasteurized? Or are the benefits completely mitigated by the pasteurization process…I realize it is better to have raw…just not available here….

Applying a firm latch directly to the animal’s protruding, leaking teat with your mouth is the surest way to get untouched, pure, unprocessed dairy, but that’s the ideal (well, something like the ideal) that few of us will ever attain.

Here’s how it works out for me. My butter is mostly grass-fed, but not organic. My yogurt is organic and pasture-fed, but not completely grass-fed. My Greek yogurt is conventional and presumably not pasture-fed. My cream is pasture-fed and organic, but not fully grass-fed. My cheese is sometimes raw and grass-fed, sometimes just grass-fed, and sometimes neither; it’s rarely organic. So it’s not a nice linear continuum with raw at the desired beginning. I make choices based on what’s available and what dairy food I’m actually buying. I’m not wedded to any single label.

I don’t stress too hard about raw dairy because I’m not drinking fluid milk. Raw milk is where most of the benefits appear. Raw whey, for example, is pretty good at boosting glutathione status when you eat it.

Instead, I go for fermented dairy – cheese, yogurt, the occasional batch of kefir – and dairy fat – cream and butter. With those foods, the raw aspect, while a nice bonus, isn’t all that crucial. That they are grass-fed or pasture-fed is probably the most important factor I’m looking for. Plus, remember the vast majority of those studies I mentioned last week linking full-fat dairy to various health benefits were referring to pasteurized, standard dairy, not raw dairy. Raw dairy likely isn’t necessary to get the benefits, at least not all of them.

Can you discuss the possible relation between dairy products and metabolic bone disease? As you know, the USA consumes more dairy products than any in the world, and yet have the highest incidence of Osteoarthritis.

Actually, the US ranks 16th in dairy consumption per capita, well behind most Northern European and some Eurasian countries. Furthermore, while Nordic countries like Sweden and Finland get most of their dairy from milk, and Greece and Switzerland get most of theirs from cheese, the dairy situation in the United States is a little different.

We’re drinking less milk than ever.

We eat the most ice cream in the world (as of 2011, at least). There are very few bone-building nutrients in ice cream.

We’re eating less butter and more “butter.” And the butter we do eat tends to be the alabaster, factory-farmed variety low in bone-supportive vitamin K2.

But your overall point that we eat a lot of dairy and still have poor bone health is sound, and this is simply evidence that calcium is not enough to ensure good bone density. Vitamin D status, vitamin K2 intake, even the amount of protein you eat impact the health of your skeletal system. Lifting weights and just staying active enough and moving your body against gravity on a regular basis improve bone density. Sitting around on cushioned sofas using only enough musculature to follow the screen with your eyes and cram chips into your mouth provides insufficient stimulus for maintenance of bone density. You aren’t working against gravity. Gravity is at least acting upon you (can’t say the same for astronauts in space who end up losing tons of bone and muscle), but you aren’t acting back.

Post workout, you want inflammation to be high, because the higher the inflammation, the stronger the recovery (I learned this from you, Mark). Low-fat dairy = inflammation and insulin spike, and protein. So non-fat greek yogurt post workout = best PWO snack ever?

Interesting way of thinking! I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think heaping even more inflammation (from dietary input, no less) on top of the inflammation created by an effective training session will help. All the inflammation you need should and will come from the actual training. It’s not that “inflammation is good post-workout.” It’s that “training-induced inflammation is necessary for the training effect.” It’s a balance. Upsetting that balance in either direction could impair the results you’re expecting.

Insulin spike, post-workout? Sure, that’s helpful for shuttling in nutrients, particularly if you’re looking to increase muscle mass and restore glycogen levels as quickly as possible. The low-fat Greek yogurt might be “better,” but not because it’s increasing inflammation above and beyond what you’re already get from the workout.

I have heard that if you are gluten intolerant you should leave milk alone also. Is this true?

If your gluten intolerance is accompanied by elevated intestinal permeability (or “leaky gut”), you might want to try a period of dairy avoidance. A leaky gut can allow partially digested proteins from the food you eat pass into your bloodstream where your immune system reacts, and dairy contains potentially reactive proteins (especially casein and related byproducts like the aforementioned BCM7).

Though the evidence isn’t totally clear, gluten may increase intestinal permeability in everyone, celiac, gluten sensitive, and non-gluten sensitive alike by stimulating the release of zonulin, the compound that toggles intestinal permeability. It’s not a problem for everyone, because their immune systems can take care of any invading proteins without it developing into an inflammatory issue or an autoimmune attack on their own cells.

Try dairy. Just be careful with it. And don’t eat dairy if you’ve been eating gluten recently, especially if you’ve got a confirmed sensitivity to gluten.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading – and asking! Let me know if you have any other dairy-related questions.

TAGS:  big moo, dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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73 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Full-Fat Dairy Roundup”

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  1. Thank you on the response on the value of raw not being very important in fermented products. Unfortunately, in Canada grass-fed dairy is not available either. Cows can’t survive winter in our climate without the feed & trade restrictions does not allow shipping from the States.

    1. I believe cattle fed a diet of hay still qualifies as “grass fed”. There are a few grass-fed dairies in upstate New York where I live, with similar environmental conditions to Canada, so it is certainly possible for cows to survive your winter without grains. Check your farmer’s markets or eatwild, maybe?. At the very least you should be able to get pastured dairy in the summertime. I have seen loads of dairy cows grazing Canadian pastures in the summer. Liberte is one of my favourite brands of yogurt and comes from QC.. I know its available in Canada. Their cows are grassfed in the summer.

      1. Oh and I think Organic Valley is available in Canada. They have a pastured butter product. Its good.

        1. It’s available in Minnesota, I get it all the time. Very, very delicious butter. So I would imagine that a few hundred miles north it’d be available too.

      2. The question was regarding Northern Canada. Upstate NY isn’t the same, climatically, as The Yukon or Nunavut.

        1. Ah, my apologies for the assumption. The question simply said “Canada”, which could mean a whole range of climates, but most Canadians live within close proximity to the American border (hence I assumed). I can’t imagine there are many dairies in the Yukon, NWT, or Nunavut, period, whether grass-fed or conventional. I’m betting most dairy products would be shipped in from the warmer provinces anyway, perhaps they may ship some of the items I mentioned. Or just forget dairy and enjoy what Northern Canada has to offer… caribou, anyone?

        2. How about Fairbanks, AK?

          There’s a rancher 1/4 mile up the road who stockpiles hay, as well as receiving deliveries throughout the winter. That’s all his cattle ever eat.

          There’s a dairy about 100 miles away that feeds all year with hay, although he does bring in hay silage to supplement the hay that he gets locally.

          Grass fed in such an environment is definitely possible.

      3. I buy Liberte yogurts, but it comes from QC, and I kindda don’t like supporting QC, I’d rather support the local farmers. We have Vital Green here, and they produce organic non-homogenized products. They say they feed their cows like this:

        He grows his own hay and mixes it with organic minerals, flaxmeal from Highwood Crossing, and molasses.

        I have no idea if this is a good feeding regimen.

    2. Cows can easily survive in Canada (where I am, MB) but the grass fed dairy is almost impossible with our supply management system. Milk quota compels the producer to supply year round, which is very difficult (or impossible) on stored hay alone. Most people are not aware of the constricting effect supply management can have on products that are a little off the mainstream. I don’t think its intentional , just a sideswipe from a system that never thought about such products. Same with the restrictions on butter imports – so I can’t even try Kerry Gold!

    3. Not sure where in Canada you are, but I’m in Calgary and I buy Kerrygold aged cheese at Safeway. It’s from grass-fed cows for the most part from what I’ve read, and it’s delicious!

      Other than that the best I can do with other dairy is make sure that it’s organic and not homogenized.

  2. Looks like we are ‘milking’ this subject for all it’s worth!

  3. When I first went gluten-free (GF) over 5 years ago, I thought dairy might be a problem. I went completely dairy free for 6 weeks (it was torture without butter!!) then reintroduced dairy in this order:

    Turns out I did not have an issue! I thought some might find this info helpful…

    1. for years i thought i was lactose-intolerant. turned out to be the whole wheat bread, stone-ground crackers and other grains i always ate with it. which also made me more likely to binge, since i couldn’t have just a couple crackers.

      gluten-free now 4+ years, quality dairy presents nothing but positive for me.

  4. My first foray into posting here after following this blog on and off for awhile. I feel like I need to post something about dangers of raw milk and raw dairy in general.

    I am a nurse practitioner with doctorates in Nursing Practice and Public Health. In my past career as a bedside ICU nurse prior to becoming a NP, I had seen my share of deadly and wholly preventable illnesses caused by food. There were a few which stood out, one was a teen boy who picked then ate a poisonous type of mushrooms and subsequently had to be put on liver transplant list. He died just few days after being put on the list. The other was a case that stood out.

    It was a twenty year old woman who developed sepsis and multiple organ failure from E.Coli (among other bacterium) infection in her bloodstream. The bacteria had originated from her ingesting raw, whole milk. She had been drinking raw milk without adverse effects for a couple of years prior to her hospitalization. But this time the E.Coli multiplied within her body with such a vengeance that she became septic and died within two weeks. A healthy twenty year-old dead, from drinking raw milk. That’s not the saddest part. Her mother became psychotic with grief, even going so far as roaming the hospital a couple of years after her daughter’s death, often asking medical staff to help direct her to bedside of her daughter, as if she was merely recovering from routine surgery.

    Not to scare people, but if you had to witness sepsis and the associated multi-organ failure or uncontrollable internal bleeding, then you would think twice before drinking or eating anything raw dairy.

    1. +1

      I don’t have a problem with raw dairy and do think it is nutritionally superior in some cases, but its good to see some of the negatives that come with it..this being a big one

      1. Also as a side note, I worked on a small family farm for years doing milking among other things, and I wouldn’t touch the raw milk in that bulk tank with a 10 foot pole. The only thing standing between the manure-coated cow udder and the bulk tank was a thin filter, which was always coated in chunks of straw and manure with the smaller particles going right into the milk.
        I would have to think that the farmers selling milk raw would have to(or at least want to) follow stricter sanitation practices, but organic grass-fed manure can make you just as sick as conventional. 🙂

        1. And that, my friends, is why milk in industrialized nations is almost always pasteurized.

        2. I call BS on this. Know your farmer first of all. You have a much greater chance of getting sick from most conventional foods. Go to and read some Weston Price. I’ll take my chances on the nutrient dense foods. I’d also make sure my gut was in tip-top shape before venturing out.

        3. Farmers who legally sell raw milk are under much tighter governmental oversight. Part of the reason commercial dairies are so filthy is because they pasteurize the milk, so they don’t worry as much about overall sanitation. And then there’s some sort of slip-up in the supply chain and thousand of people get sick, just like with industrialized versions of many other foods – ground beef, eggs, produce, etc.

          This is the same situation as to why eggs are washed prior to being sold in the US but not in Europe. You can keep unwashed eggs at room temperature, but once you wash them they have to be refrigerated.

          Individual cases of illness are always sad and shocking, so it’s understandable that witnessing a death caused by contaminated milk would lead to a revulsion toward raw milk. But it seems like every month there’s a news story about hundreds of people being sickened or killed by industrial food products, and yet there’s no change.

        4. So, so true. Much as I’d like to romanticise the raw milk, having seen it up front and personal in the cow shed I wouldn’t go anywhere near the stuff. Bacteria develop so quickly in milk products (look at the amount of food poisoning from ice cream) that is’s simply not worth the risk. You may be OK for years, or you may strike it very unlucky.

        5. My raw milk comes from a dairy that doesn’t have the cows come to a milking barn at all. They are out in pasture and a large truck with milking machines on the trailer comes out to the cows.
          So there are no “manure-coated cow udders” to be seen there!
          And I’ve been drinking it for over 15 years with no ill effects, ever.

    2. Was it cow or goats milk?

      The deadly e-coli strain only develops if the cows are fed grains, the stomach produces such high acidity that the bacteria mutate and become immune to it…thus making even the cows ill.
      Drinking raw milk from these animals would certainly end in death, this is why we have the law that all milk needs to be pasteurized before sale because it is assumed ALL cows are being fed silage.

      Our stomachs ph isn’t acidic enough to kill the strain. You’d need the equivalent of battery acid to kill it.

      1. I’m sorry, but that is not true. From the American Journal of Veterinary Research:

        “Results of a longitudinal study of the prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on cow-calf farms

        Objective—To describe the frequency and distribution of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in the feces and environment of cow-calf herds housed on pasture.

        Results—Escherichia coli O157:H7 was detected in 40 of 3,152 (1.3%) fecal samples, and 40 of 2,058 (1.9%) cattle had ? 1 sample with E coli. Fecal shedding by specific cattle was transient; none of the cattle had E coli in more than 1 sample. Significant differences were not detected in overall prevalence among farms. However, significant differences were detected in prevalence among sample collection dates. Escherichia coli O157:H7 was detected in 3 of 199 (1.5%) water samples.

        Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Implementing control strategies for E coli O157:H7 at all levels of the cattle industry will decrease the risk of this organism entering the human food chain. Devising effective on-farm strategies to control E coli O157:H7 in cow-calf herds will require an understanding of the epidemiologic characteristics of this pathogen.”

        1. Well that’s interesting, but it doesn’t really tell us anything significant, like the difference in e. coli concentrations between feedlot cattle and pastured cattle, the amount of e.coli present that would create a health concern, and the vectors associated with delivering the e.coli detected into the human food supply.

        2. The post I replied to said that E coli “The deadly e-coli strain only develops if the cows are fed grains.” That is clearly false.

          Also, to answer your question, although it is not stated in the section I quoted, the amounts and concentrations found were equivalent to that found in grain fed cattle.

          I have no problem with people choosing to consume raw dairy and do so myself from time to time. But people need to know all the facts if they are going to make an informed choice. And the fact is, E coli is sometimes present in raw milk.

      2. Or this from the Journal of Applied Microbiology:

        “The prevalence and concentration of Escherichia coli O157 in faeces of cattle from different production systems at slaughter

        Aims:? To determine the prevalence and concentration of Escherichia coli O157 shed in faeces at slaughter, by beef cattle from different production systems.

        Methods and Results:? Faecal samples were collected from grass-fed (pasture) and lot-fed (feedlot) cattle at slaughter and tested for the presence of E. coli O157…

        Conclusion:? The prevalence and numbers of E. coli O157 in the faeces of cattle at slaughter were not affected by the production systems evaluated in this study.”

  5. Zhanna, I agree, both from a commonsense standpoint and also because I knew someone who became seriously ill from drinking raw milk. It took him years to get his health back.

    Putting one’s faith in the assumed cleanliness and herd health of unknown farmers is, IMO, pretty naive, regardless of any real or imagined nutritional superiority.

    1. Many of us buy our raw milk on the farm from the person who milks a small herd of cows who are grazing nearby and get to see the process including how the teats are prepped before milking. So it’s not always “assumed cleanliness and herd health of unknown farmers”

  6. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this but I find few ‘whole milk’ yogurts and full fat cream that does not have a mix of skim milk and high fat milk. Why do they do this? If I am not careful, (can’t find my usual brand which does not mix skim milk) I know within 10 minutes…..not good.

    1. I’m pretty sure it’s because skim milk is so plentiful (leftovers from making butter/cheese?) they start with skim milk as a base & then add a bit of cream or whole milk for flavour/texture.

      I would also pretty much avoid milk protein concentrate or anything that says “modified milk ingredients” or even the more vague “milk ingredients”.

    2. +1
      Cheese too, and just about every other food stuff has non-fat milk powder or skim milk added. Ice Cream for the mainstream is rife with it.

      It’s very difficult to find full fat anything in most chain stores.

      An acquaintance is doing a doctor recommended 800 calorie low fat, low carb diet. To it’s credit it got her husband off insulin, but…..
      When I told her she should be eating full fat yogurt she looked at me like I had three heads and said, ” I don’t want to get fat “.

      1. Once I went to primal eating I started reading labels, sour cream should have the one igredient – cream…. most of them don’t, they have a paragraph (those go back on the shelf).
        I tell my co-workers who are struggling with keeping their weight off that full fat is good, I get the same “I don’t want to get fat” and my response is “Fat doesn’t make you fat, carbs do” and the reply is
        (yeah, no else EVER hears this I’m sure) “I could never give up my carbs/bread/etc”……. ahahahahaha.
        OH well, at least I no longer struggle with keeping my weight stable and within 4 pounds and consider myself a walking commercial of “Fats don’t make you Fat!”

        1. There is a caveat to the “fats won’t make you fat” mantra. Fats on their own aren’t fattening, but who eats nothing but fat? Fact is, fat will very definitely contribute to weight gain if combined with starchy foods, such as fat/flour/sugar desserts, or even sweet potatoes loaded with butter, if you eat them very often.

      2. Now realizing that I might alienate said acquaintance from this blog after recommending it to her, I would like to apologize for my callous comment. I only meant to illustrate that there is so much mis/disinformation out there it is very difficult to suss out the facts.
        My comment is mine, and I unfortunately have to own it.
        Please don’t let it dissuade you from reading and participating in this ground breaking forum, just because I’m an idiot sometimes.

    3. Because they can, because the milk is homogenized. In the US at least, milk is assumed to be homogenized, and only non-homogenous milk need be labeled as such. If not indicated on the label, it’s homogenized.

      In non-homogenized milk, the cream rises to the top and can be skimmed off, but never completely separates (though I suppose you could use a centrifuge…). Homogenized milk can be separated into cream and non-fat rather easily. Also, homogeneous = uniform. Non-homogenized milk can only be whole, part-skim, or skim, because the amount of fat varies. With homogenized milk, they can separate all the fat, then add a measured amount back in. This is how you get fat-free, 1%, 2%, 3.5%, 4%.

      Sometimes the producer decides that it’s easier to just homogenize and separate ALL the milk, then return some cream to the milk intended for non-skim.

    4. Most grocery store brands of cream will have half a dozen non-cream additives, including skim or powdered milk. Try Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or the like, and look for Organic Valley whipping cream, which contains only carageenan (a preservative), or my favorite, Kalona Supernaturals. The Kalona brand comes in a little bottle and contains nothing but heavy cream. Since it contains no preservatives, it will not keep as long.

      1. Not really how it works. Most are ultrapasturized which extends their shelf life greatly. Kalona is VAT pasteurized which does not have anywhere near as long of a shelf life.

    5. Because most consumers are eating yogurt as a “health food” and believe that low fat is healthier. Stores aren’t going to stock very many full fat yogurts until there is enough demand…

  7. I have had a difficult time with dairy for many years. Since going primal/paleo, any type of dairy I ingest has a soured aftertaste. It’s disgusting! I can’t eat milk chocolate (which isn’t a bad thing), but kefir, aged cheeses etc, all produce this nasty soured aftertaste in my mouth. I occasionally will eat aged cheese but I have to drink something quickly afterward to avoid that nasty taste. I only became so sensitive to dairy after going primal and cutting down on my consumption. I really feel better off the stuff.

    (I did get into the goat’s milk feta cheese last week and ate a good-sized piece of it. Twelve hours later, I was in the bathroom just ill for a few hours.)

    Anyone else experience something like this?

    1. That sour taste is usually with store bought milk products. After not drinking milk for 20 years and getting raw, it was so rich, thick and smooth it’s like night and day.

    2. Some organic full-fat store-bought milk is nice and rich as well. Not all, but some. Regular store-bought milk usually has a sour ‘off taste to me. I still use it in an emergency, but the good stuff is soooo much tastier!

      If you are having stomach problems you might have a lactose intolerance that is complicating things.

      1. I was told that the vitamin A that is added to standard store bought milk rapidly breaks down, giving the milk an “off” flavor. Does anyone know about this?

    3. As a Canadian, I have to say that I won’t drink any milk when I’m in the States because of that sour taste. Our dairy cows are hormone/antibiotic free by law (for now), so I’m sure that plays a role in it. I don’t notice it in American cheeses though.

    4. Dairy runs thru me like a freight train. I can tell if something is sautéed in butter: feels like a rock in my stomach. Gluten is not quite as bad. I have a 48 hour reprieve with lots of gut rumbling before the “exit”

  8. The biggest, most notable difference I experienced in my body is when I stopped eating cow cheese. My cellulite diminished considerably… To the point of being gone. Hey, you really are what you eat bc no more cottage cheese thighs!
    My body never tolerated milk well, but for some reason I kept eating cheese my entire childhood through my 20s. If you had asked me what my last meal was, it included a ball of fresh mozzarella! I am so glad I finally got the will power (thanks to paleo) to stop eating cow cheese bc it was a major “binge food” for me…I could eat 3-4 string cheeses back to back no problem. I was always resigned to having cellulite a.k.a”Hail Damage” LOL bc my mom had it terribly on her thighs and I just thought it was another genetic curse. I can’t express how wonderful it is to be wrong about that.
    I still eat goat cheese on occasion and do not have any adverse reactions to it.

    1. Hmmmmm, I wonder if I got rid of sour cream and the little bits of cheese I eat – perhaps it would get rid of the hail damage on me? A girl can hope!

  9. I’ve been a dairy farmer my while life, but never liked milk…. Youll have a hard time getting grass fed milk here in Canada because hay will not allow these days cows to produce the milk that grass fed and grain fed cows will. For those unaware some of these Holsteins are putting out like well over 120 pounds of milk per day EACH which translates into big bucks for farmers. Around here herd averages are 70-80 pounds a day. And the small family dairies that actually care more about the cows then profit are getting pretty few and far between. We sold out in 2004 and I`ve just worked on them till recently. As far as getting sick from raw milk, if you were a kid that played in dirt you probably have a much higher chance of dying in a car accident. Ive seen some of the guys drink pretty dirty milk over the last few years(on these commercial dairies) and they’ve been fine. Im looking into getting a pair of milking goats so I can make my own cheeses and yogurt, much more economical than a cow…

  10. Hi Mark,

    Great article as usual. I came across a very interesting talk ( on the subject of raw milk recently. Granted, it’s by an industry alliance, but seems to be relatively on the money none the less, would you agree?
    The purported antipathogenic properties of raw milk are amazing,

  11. milk pasteurization is one of the most successful public health initiatives in modern times. if you can find a 100% trustworthy source, well, then good luck.

    when i gave up grains i had a much easier time with cheese, but then finally made the connection that mass-produced supermarket cheese also made me more likely to binge. i only eat grass-fed now and can go days and days without thinking about eating it. i know the crap diet of those cows manifested badly for me.

    problem solved.

    1. Incorrect mostly. Read Weston Price. The dairy industry was filthy and so many people were putting out tainted, dirty product and feeding the cows grains. They started to pasteurize instead of making the businesses clean up their act. So they killed the delicious raw milk industry and made way for more industrialization of sick cows.

      1. That would be right. Frankly in my opinion you’d be tempting fate buying raw milk without seeing the dairy first and checking if their hygiene procedures are up to scratch.

        1. The controls in place on such farms in the UK are much more stringent than those that supply pasteurized milk. Given that pasteurization has not been shown to protect against a fair number of pathogens, the risk is still minute. I read somewhere that the chance of getting sick (not even hospitalization) from drinking raw milk is lower than that of being killed in a plane crash. Frankly, the rational stance seems to be that that benefits far outweigh the risks.

      2. Also look at a great book on the history of pasteurization by Melanie DuPuis, _Nature’s Perfect Food_.

  12. I eat Kerrygold’s grass fed butter on virtually everything. However, I’ve had a harder time finding grass fed/organic brands of heavy cream, cheese, full fat yogurt et cetera. Does anyone know of any such brands in the Midwest?

    1. Sprouts Markets just recently started selling very reasonably priced bulk cheeses labeled “grass-fed.”

      Organic Valley sells cream labeled “pastured” or something like that.

    2. TradersPoint Creamery, Zionsville Indiana, has grass-fed organic whole fat yogurt, cream, and whole milk with layer of cream. You can order products through Honored Prairie, a fellowship of farmers. Honored Prairie serves the Midwest.

  13. I recently discovered that dairy gives me headaches. Not major raging headaches, but sneaky headaches that just make you feel a bit lousy. I found this out after I gave up coffee for a month. The small headaches I would get in behind my eyeballs each day around 9:30am / 10am were not coffee withdrawals as I thought they were all these years. They were in fact caused by the full fat natural yoghurt I was having for breakfast. As soon as I removed the yoghurt, the headaches stopped immediately. The thing is, all these years I thought the headaches were a craving for coffee around 10am each morning……because having a coffee would actually get rid of the headache. But by not having coffee, the headaches would last a lot longer into the day and I felt worse. Since then I’ve noticed other dairy having the same effect, so I’ve ditched it totally. I feel a lot better for it. And I’m now drinking my coffee black and filtered instead of espresso. It leaves me with a much more energy and a heightened sense of well being. Magic.

  14. This is a really good blog post today and I think that in addition to reading it for the actual questions and their answers, people should read it with an eye for how to think about these types of issues. I mean, people read “inflammation is good post-workout” and think “then more inflammation must be better”. But you are so good at explaining why these automatic leaps are counter-productive.

  15. I haven’t drank milk for years, but its hard to get by without cheese. I live in a small town and they don’t have any good cheeses. In the spring I will be able to get some from places I found on
    As for bone heath…I believe the cause of so much osteoporosis is caused from eating too much processed food which are acid in the body and not enough fresh fruits and veggies which are alkaline.
    Your body wants to be just a bit alkaline. If you are too acid your body will pull the alkaline from your bones.
    So the primal/paleo lifestyle is perfect for keeping your bones strong.

    1. Joan, I just have to call you out on this very unscientific claptrap. First, what is a “processed food?” Canned green beans? Cupcakes? Corn chips? And that by dint of being processed they suddenly change your body’s characteristics?

      Which is the main reason I write. Your “body” never ever, changes its pH. Acidity/alkalinity. Your blood’s pH is controlled within a very, very narrow range. Only your urine – which is obviously a waste product contained in your bladder – changes pH somewhat.

      All explained here:

      The take away quote: “You should not believe that it matters whether foods are acidic or alkaline, because no foods change the acidity of anything in your body except your urine. Your stomach is so acidic that no food can change its acidity. Citrus fruits, vinegar, and vitamins such as ascorbic acid or folic acid do not change the acidity of your stomach or your bloodstream. An entire bottle of calcium pills or antacids would not change the acidity of your stomach for more than a few minutes.”

  16. Why was there no mention of the dozens of different [naturally-occurring] hormones present in milk? Milk, meant for growing baby cows. I don’t discount its deliciousness nor some of its wondrous nutritional qualities, especially when raw. But it may not be the most ideal food to consume too regularly because of that.

  17. Dear Mark,
    I know that A1vs A2 milk is no big issue in the USA but here in Australia there was an intensive debate some time ago. A2 milk is actually on sale here but the company has now stopped making outrageous claims in their advertising and has selected a soft feeling approach instead. You gave a very balanced view in your response and I appreciated that. You alluded to the extensive literature available in case of milk protein chemistry. This literature was actually reviewed by a working group of EFSA that produced a comprehensive report in 2009 (

  18. A1 milk products make my left hip hurt. I know, strange but true. If I eat enough of it, my hip becomes immobile and it is difficult to walk. I started noticing this at about age 40. It started with a creakiness in my hip joints and got progressively worse.

    I eventually figured out it was dairy causing this but did not know what in dairy was the culprit. And then…..30 years later….Mark to the rescue with some off hand remark in one of his posts about A1 and A2. I had not ever heard about the two types of casein previously. With some further research I finally have it figured out. I used to tell my doctors about this but not any more because they either don’t care or think I am a little nuts.

    I was a vegetarian for about 30 years and may have leaky gut. I’ve been Primal for 5 years or so. I eat some goat cheese and goat milk kefir but that is it. Goats and sheep are A2.

    I am presently reading Tara Grants new book and plan to do her elimination diet to see if there are any positive results for me.

    If I remember correctly from some research, Jersey cows are about 50, 50 as to whether they are A1 or A2. Brown Swiss are more likely A2 and Guernseys are mostly A2.

  19. I waited with bated breath all weekend for the next dairy post! This did not disappoint!

    My experience with dairy at this point is that some kinds help me feel full and some kinds encourage me to binge. Cheese, yogurt, and kefir are all binge foods, but I find I feel full pretty quickly after drinking some heavy cream or eating some sour cream. Today I even experimented with mixing sour cream into my yogurt, and that made it so much better!

    Makes me wonder if I still am a little lactose intolerant, because yogurt and kefir still have sugars in them, and no, I’m not drinking a full 8oz of cream or our cream at any one time, so I doubt it’s the amount of fat.

    I am loving Organic Valley because it’s what I can find. Any more, I find conventional dairy disgusting.

    Now I wait with bated breath for the post on determining dairy tolerance!!

    1. I am also looking forward to the post on determining dairy tolerance as it has been a mystery for many years. I remember a time when I was a child and my parents/doctor thought I might be lactose intolerant. We tried alternatives, but wound up back at the usual 2% cows milk and other conventional products. That is one of the events that makes me wonder if I have just been celiac for most of my life. Now when I consider dairy’s role I also wonder what affect it will have on my blood sugar and whether or not it will ferment in my gut (FODMAP). I’ll figure it out one of these days 🙂 Forever learning, and forever hopeful!

  20. As we speak I’m eating seasonal blueberries and strawberries with the most delicious Tasmanian cultured cream. Expensive but worth it. Ahhhh gotta love Australia! The land of grassfed meat and dairy.

    1. I’ll do you one better… I’m in Brisbane eating mangos with raw cream (so thick it’s almost like butter).

  21. I’m so relieved to read your thoughts on raw dairy. I am pregnant for the third time and have been thoroughly cautioned against raw dairy, but also being Primal and skeptical of CW, I wonder if the pasteurized stuff is worthless.

    Since I mostly eat cheese, butter and occasionally yogurt (okay, I’ll admit, and ice cream) it’s good to know the pasteurization doesn’t negate all the benefits. I tolerate dairy well and there’s not much else that can so quickly and easily satisfy pregnancy cravings and hunger pangs. It’s hard to cook a grass fed steak when I wake at 2:00 AM starving.

  22. The incidence of food poisoning from raw milk is blown way out of proportion. You are WAY more likely to get e. coli from leafy greens than from raw milk, and there is a much higher Listeria infections from deli meats than from raw milk. Any foods you eat, potentially contain pathogenic bacteria. Know the source of your food, and decide from there whether to eat it. Pasteurization is only covering up poor production standards, and in the process, destroying milk’s natural antimicrobial and digestive enzymes.

  23. Okay if A2 is better, then what brands in the store can be trusted?