Milk intolerance

February 24th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, mirror, nutritionists | 1 Comment »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday February 24, 2005
The Guardian

· Everybody’s debunking these days, even those heroes of extrapolation, the nutritionists. Take Angela Dowden, writing in the Mirror this week, under the heading: “Top nutritionist on the ‘functional fare’ fad.” The news archives are inevitably full of articles by someone called Angela Dowden lucratively promoting the functional food fad. But anyway, look, I’m not going to be mealy mouthed about this [coughs] I just wish she’d get her balls out and debunk with gusto. Here’s what she has to say about a magnificently bonkers product called Night Time semi-skimmed milk (89p for 750ml; 30p for a 250ml glass): “The theory: Naturally higher in melatonin ‘for a good night’s sleep’. Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland and also contained in milk. Night Time has twice the level found in a normal pint. Does it work? Nice idea but there has been no research on the milk to show it actually works … 3/10.”

· OK, come on. We don’t need a large negative randomised control trial to call this one out. For a start, you could just drink two glasses of milk. I rang Night Time: its representative didn’t want to tell me how much melatonin was in the milk because that was commercially sensitive material, but did agree that it was nothing like the doses in the melatonin tablets you can buy in America and also that it wouldn’t be sedating if you drank Night Time during the day. They just milk their cows in the morning, because melatonin is made overnight and some of it comes out in milk. This milk, I would say, is milk.

· Night Time picked up the phone after the third ring, and the whole operation took about four minutes in total, and I reckon that the Guardian probably pays me much less for that effort than the Mirror pays Angela Dowden. The bottom line is, I’m wasted here in the science section. I want my own nutrition column. It could go something like this.

· Melatonin is naturally produced by your own body overnight, and helps to set the diurnal cycle. It has mild sedating effects and is fat-soluble so it slips over the membranes in your kidneys and comes out whole in your urine. It’s the first piss of the day that you want (although do collect any that you do overnight and pop them in the fridge), and I’d recommend only drinking the middle half, because the first and last quarters have a bit more gunk in them. It’s tasty, thrifty, faddy and high in melatonin. I tried it this morning, and I have to say, I’m feeling tremendously relaxed.


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