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Barbara Burke

Health Options

By Joannie Dobbs & Alan Titchenal

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Look below froth
of beer campaign

People with an "agenda" frequently search very deeply to find correct but misleading information that will support their beliefs. A poignant example of this is the recent Got Beer? campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Being opposed to the production of milk because of ethical concerns for cows, PETA tried to use nutrition facts to convince people to stop drinking milk

Targeting college students, PETA recently ran advertisements on college campuses pushing beer mustaches instead of milk mustaches. At first, this may strike you as a bit cute and humorous. However, reflecting on college student deaths from binge drinking and drunk driving can sober up your humor very quickly.

Of course, we take issue with PETA's insistence that beer is nutritionally better than milk. In support of this claim, PETA cites United States Department of Agriculture nutrition data for milk and beer. The claim that beer is better than milk is because beer has less fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories per cup. And as a bonus, "regular beer" has a half a gram of fiber per cup and milk has none

Don't head for the pub yet. It's what is not said that matters. Beer for fiber? First of all, it is questionable that your favorite beer really has any fiber at all. It depends on how the beer is filtered. But let's just say that you have some really high fiber beer at one gram per bottle. If you are counting on beer to meet your fiber needs, you would need to drink over a case of beer each day. We don't recommend this.

How about the fat and cholesterol? Both of these can vary from almost none in nonfat milk to about 8 grams of fat and 30 mg of cholesterol in whole milk. Since dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on blood levels of cholesterol in most people anyway, this amount of cholesterol is a nonissue.

As for the fat in milk, recent research has shown that milk fat contains some special protective properties. Two food components in milk fat, conjugated linoleic acid and sphingolipids, may be protective against colon cancer.

What about the sodium in milk? Is milk likely to kick up your blood pressure? No, quite the opposite. The quantity of calcium and potassium in milk along with a modest amount of magnesium are likely to help lower your blood pressure. Low intake of these minerals is more likely to raise your blood pressure than a modest intake of sodium.

What PETA doesn't mention about milk is that it is a great source of some B vitamins, along with vitamins A and D. Beer is not. Also, beer is virtually protein free, whereas milk is a good source of very high quality protein. People who don't consume milk products frequently consume too much protein relative to the calcium in their diets. Milk products provide a way to get great quality protein with a lot of calcium. Also, some studies in the elderly have found that diets too low in protein contribute to the problem of osteoporosis.

Certainly, we are in favor of the ethical treatment of cows, but we expect the chickens are disappointed in PETA because they have egg on their face with this one.

As of March 26th, PETA curtailed their Got Beer? campaign in response to protests from MADD, but this still doesn't justify misusing nutrition as a means to an end.

Health Events

Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a food and nutrition consultant
and owner of Exploring New Concepts, a nutritional consulting firm.
She is also responsible for the nutritional analyses
indicated by an asterisk in this section.

Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a sports nutritionist in the
Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Science,
University of Hawaii-Manoa.

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