Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: More discussion needed on dairy consumption

In reference to the letter to the editor that ran under the headline “Dairy not necessarily healthy” in your Aug. 26 edition, the statements made by Pat Davies against dairy consumption and for an alternative, plant-based diet are compelling. Particularly now, as we discover the inevitable connection between diet and wellness or illness, traditional versus modern methods of food production, the treatment of dairy farm cows and the greenhouse gas emissions from such farms. And running through everything is our critical need to rescue this tired, much depleted planet from extinction.
Change of any sort is a difficult and sometimes painful process. It is almost always slow. Personal choice, free of danger to others, remains a basic right, and that right extends to the things we choose to eat and drink. I myself have gradually reduced my intake of dairy, but I’m not perfect, nor am I abstinent. I still adore eggs and real cheese, the latter for which this blessed state of ours is quite famous. But I don’t have to eat them every day, so I content myself (most of the time) with once or twice a month. Maybe one day I’ll stumble upon an organically synthetic substance that really, truly tastes like something I can blend with my gluten-free, spinach-spun macaroni and will gladly call it my new cheesy comfort food. On that day, I’ll hop and whirl like Snoopy doing the happy dance.
Meanwhile, the pros and cons regarding dairy consumption exist. As Ms. Davies indicated, we already have an historically firm notion of the benefits and/or the things that appeal to us about dairy, evidenced by those “Got milk?” ads backed by powerful, established interest groups. There is also a relatively unfamiliar, less popular, but distinctly growing body of medical research — much of it from reputable physicians — favoring plant-based foods. This is because of the increased, substantial link found between prolonged dairy consumption and, for examples, heart disease, arthritis and certain cancers. This data, it seems to me, needs to also be widely and openly examined by us.
We need respectful discourse and robust debate about dairy specifically and diet generally. We would benefit from symposiums and panel discussions featuring nationally renowned guest speakers and hosted by viable civic groups in our own locality. In addition, doctors and nutritionists, physical therapists and holistic health practitioners would do well to update themselves and educate their patients on a spectrum of dietary options for maintaining wellness and very likely preventing illnesses. I encourage these healers to include dairy-free foods among such options.
Wise choices for our personal, collective and the planet’s well-being will only come about when we responsibly inform ourselves and others.
Kathleen Donovan
Middlebury

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