Thursday, January 20, 2011

Whitewash, by Joseph Keon

In this book-length indictment of the use of cow’s milk for human consumption, Keon leaves no stone unturned. Exhaustively, he offers us information on why cow’s milk is not good for humans, either children or adults; on contamination of milk products; on how the calcium in milk does not do a body good, in fact it weakens bones; on the association of dairy products with a myriad of human diseases; on the environmental effects of dairy farming (and a brief synopsis of the agonies of being a milk cow); and finally, on how to give up dairy products and lead a healthier life.
There is much good here, and I recommend having this book on your reference shelf. However, be careful with how you use the information. Keon is generally careful about making connections between dairy consumption and human health, for example, by saying milk “may” cause this or that disease or have an effect on it, when he is not certain that studies have made the connection conclusive.  At times, though, the sources he cites are not credible. For example, he makes connections between dairy consumption, vaccines, and autism, citing various studies by Andrew Wakefield that have since been discredited. He should have known of this discrediting and either found other, better sources (I am not aware there are any) or mentioned the cloud hanging over Dr. Wakefield. 
He also sometimes uses second- or third-hand information. For example, a reference to a Consumer Reports statement comes from an article in a newspaper rather than directly from Consumer Reports.  
To his credit, most sources are direct. Also to his credit, Keon does an admirable job describing the mechanisms by which our bodies handle different food products or contaminants. To me the descriptions sounded believable. However, Keon is not a doctor or scientist. He is a “wellness expert, nutrition and fitness expert”. Frankly, these are not titles that inspire confidence in me. There are no governmental standards for what a nutritionist or fitness expert must learn, and the various “wellness experts” around town are all self-described. This does not mean that a non-professional cannot write a good book about milk. He’s clearly knowledgable and understands a great deal about the human body, but the few issues raised above suggest to me that he would have done well to coordinate the writing of this book with a medical doctor or appropriate scientist. 
The book contains a wealth of supplementary information, from the cited sources to a separate “recommended reading” section. It therefore rates a place on any health-conscious person’s reference shelf.

No comments: