Diabetes: The Role of Cow's Milk and Viruses in Causing this Common Health Concern

The following is a reproduction of a Millennium Health Centre editorial article which appeared in the Seaway News newspaper in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. The content is shortened to accommodate a newspaper space allotment. As such, it is not academically cited with references. These are available, so please feel free to email your questions.


Dr. Stephen F. Jones B.Comm., N.D.
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Here's a cruel reality - most readers of this column will either have or know of a close associate who has diabetes. A recent review of statistics showed that diabetes is the seventh largest cause of death in the U.S.A. (similar in Canada) and it's on the rise (by about 6% per year). While diet, obesity and family history play critical roles in developing diabetes, most suffers are fundamentally unaware of the abundant research that points the finger at other more ominous causative factors. This article will highlight some of that research and provide commentary about diagnostic options and a brief review of treatment options.

To start, let's jump into a controversial topic. Does milk cause diabetes ? No, I'm not crazy in mentioning this thought as, whether you were aware or had been told or not, milk has been researched into its role in causing diabetes for some time now.

Consider the following:

  1. the medical journal 'Diabetes' reported recently that " results (of a study) provide support for the hypothesis that high consumption of cow's milk during childhood can be diabetogenic (diabetes causing)" (Diab 2000 Jun;49(6):912-7).
  2. Research has demonstrated that antibodies (part of your immune system) to cow's milk proteins are found in greater than 1/3 of Type 1 diabetes patients and almost non-existent in the general population (Lancet 1996;348;926-28). That is to say your immune system is reacting to cow's milk consumption in these diabetes patients.
  3. Finland has historically had the highest incidence of diabetes in the world and it also has the highest consumption rate of milk and cheese (Lancet, 1992;339, 905-909).
While this article is not proposing a definitive answer to this question, the research has pointed a questionable finger at milk consumption for some time. Have you been told about this possible connection ? Why not? Perhaps blood testing for antibodies to milk proteins should be considered as part of a general screening and treatment program for those with or suspected of having diabetes. It is at Millennium Health Centre. Consult your doctor for advice.

Next, lets tread over the murky (societal / political) path and examine the role of toxic exposures as a contributing factor to causing diabetes. Once again, consider the following: 1) Many common viral infections (such as the common coxsackieviruses) have been clinically demonstrated to cause an 'autoimmune' response to cells in your pancreas that produce insulin (J Med Virol 2002 Mar;66(3):340-50). This is to say that the immune system thinks a pancreas cell is a virus (due to previous exposure to the common virus during cold season) and attacks the pancreas cell. 2) Stimulation of your immune system by food allergens, inhalent allergens or even toxic metals (found in the air and water) have been thought to possibly bind insulin receptor cells and prevent them from using necessary insulin (Endocr Res Commun, 1975;2:367-76).

Once again, the question becomes whether or not you have been told about the role of possible toxic exposures. While not proposing a definitive answer as to the role these play in developing diabetes, a routine screening at Millennium Health Centre (for suspected diabetic patients) is a blood antibody screen and urine analysis (for toxic metals). Treatment can be tailored to remove these toxicities if they do, in fact, exist. Consult you doctor for advice.

Now, if you have diabetes, what can you do to treat the condition ? What can you do to prevent the condition ? The answer is too lengthy for this space. However, here are some ideas.

First and foremost, have a doctor review your diet !! Have you been told about the 'Glycemic Index' ? This 'index' explains how some foods (such as pasta, bread, muffins etc.) release sugar very quickly into your blood, causing insulin spikes and worsening diabetes (or long term potentially causing it). Other foods ( such as vegetables, certain grains and some fruits) release sugar very slowly into the blood preventing insulin spikes and long term damage. Have this simple, yet absolutely critical concept explained to you by a licensed professional. This concept is not only key to preventing and treating diabetes, it helps explain why diabetes is on the rise (North Americans eat too much pasta, bread and the like!).

Next, explore the use of very specific herbal medicines and supplements. Be careful though. These could interfere with any diabetic medications you are on (Glyburide etc.), so profession assistance from a doctor licensed in natural products must be consulted. Talk with your medical doctor and explore your options. Good luck !