Common chronic diseases of Western societies, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, cancer, hypertension, obesity, dementia, and allergic diseases are significantly influenced by dietary habits. Cow’s milk and dairy products are nutritional staples in most Western societies. Milk and dairy product consumption is recommended by most nutritional societies because of their beneficial effects for calcium uptake and bone mineralization and as a source of valuable protein. However, the adverse long-term effects of milk and milk protein consumption on human health have been neglected. A hypothesis is presented, showing for the first time that milk protein consumption is an essential adverse environmental factor promoting most chronic diseases of Western societies. Milk protein consumption induces postprandial hyperinsulinaemia and shifts the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) axis to permanently increased IGF-1 serum levels. Insulin/IGF-1 signalling is involved in the regulation of fetal growth, T-cell maturation in the thymus, linear growth, pathogenesis of acne, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, obesity, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, thus affecting most chronic diseases of Western societies. Of special concern is the possibility that milk intake during pregnancy adversely affects the early fetal programming of the IGF-1 axis which will influence health risks later in life. An accumulated body of evidence for the adverse effects of cow’s milk consumption from fetal life to childhood, adolescence, adulthood and senescence will be provided which strengthens the presented hypothesis.
- [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]