One man stands against the medical establishment. Apparently, one man knows the truth about milk. (He also likes cheese, but that’s okay.) He’s not the medical gadfly we want; he’s the medical gadfly we need. That man is New York Times food columnist and resident elitist scold Mark Bittman.
After conducting a research study consisting of himself and two friends (not exactly a model of scientific rigor), Bittman discovered that two out of every three people should treat dairy products like a rat poison smoothie. Like all good scientists, Bittman decided to prove his earlier findings, so he approached the fount of all wisdom: Internet commenters.
Yes, based on 1,300 emails and Internet comments — we’ve all gotten rich on random lotteries and inaccessible stockpiles of Nigerian cash, right? — Bittman has declared the case against milk closed. That sounds like Nobel-winning research to us.
If you prefer to get your medical information from the Lancet, JAMA, or the New England Journal of Medicine and not The New York Times’ blogs and op-ed page, you might not realize that giving up dairy can cure everything from heartburn to hair loss. The medical consensus might be that dairy consumption is health-promoting and not harmful to most people, but Bittman is much smarter than all those doctors and researchers.
After all, Bittman feels fine promoting unpasteurized or “raw” milk. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls pasteurization — a process which kills disease-causing bacteria like E. coli — “one of public health’s most effective food safety interventions ever,” but Bittman must be smarter than the experts in infectious diseases.
How has the simple cure of ditching your milkshake or exposing yourself to easily prevented illnesses slipped past all of those doctors and health professionals? According to Bittman, there must be a conspiracy between Big Doctor, Big Pharma, Big Hay and Big Cow. (It couldn’t be that those doctors and health professionals are right or anything. That would be too mainstream.)
So whom should we trust? A vast science-based conspiracy, or the wisdom of Internet commenters? Consider that one Bittman commenter/emailer said that “My chronic lifelong nasal congestion vanished within a week, never to return.” How could those sneaky conspiring scientists and doctors reject such overwhelming “evidence”?
(Apparently Bittman doesn’t get the same amount of crank spam that we get here. If all our email commenters were right, that special diet of cabbage soup would have turned us into Brad Pitt look-alikes.)
But before we nominate Bittman for a Nobel Prize, we need to see one thing that will convince us Bittman truly stands by his “research.” We’re just waiting for Bittman to return the money he made on the bestselling recipe book that made his name, How to Cook Everything, and the money the Times paid him for his recipe columns. Why? They are drenched in — wait for it — cheese. Bittman even gave a shout-out to a Paris cheeserie.
Is Bittman therefore responsible for nasal congestion among his cookbook readers? Since food is the real medicine now, could Bittman be sued for medical malpractice? All we know is that — by his own illogic — he certainly seems a bigger pawn of Big Cheese than a “big cheese” in the clinical community.