Got Milk?

Leo Kolivakis's picture

Via Pension Pulse.

Thanksgiving here in Canada and Columbus Day in the US so I thought of
taking a step back and write on another subject that's close to my
heart, health. Not pension health, but a far more important health.

was telling a friend of mine how healthy I felt in Greece - sun,
swimming, siestas, eating healthy and just enjoying life's simple
pleasures. But when you get back to the routine, the constraints of
office life take their toll. It doesn't help that the weather in Canada
was pretty lousy over the last month, but hopefully that will change and
we can finally get sunny, crisp Fall weather.

While in Greece, I
reflected a lot on life. Something about being in Greece that makes you
reflect on the past and the future. The landscape is soaked in history,
and one can really lose themselves gazing at the mountains and swimming
in the Mediterranean ocean. It's a perfect environment for

So what did I think about? First and foremost,
I'm thankful for my family and friends. You know when they say you owe
everything to your parents? Nothing can be truer than that. Without my
father and mother, I wouldn't have achieved a quarter of the things I've
done in life. Second, I thought a lot about letting go of the past.
I've been through a lot over the last five years, both personally and
professionally, but there is simply no point dwelling on the past. In
Greece, it really hit me: life is way too short to hold grudges. I
realize that even though I wasn't always treated fairly, I made my share
of mistakes, learned from them, and it's time to move forward.

thing that struck me is that while I always write about the importance
of health, and preach it to my friends, colleagues, and on my blog, in
practice I should be doing a lot more. I've decided to join a gym, and
start slowly doing anything I can to maintain muscle mass and release
stress. Having MS is no excuse for fearing exercise, and I really don't
have any excuse for not exercising. I know it's beneficial for me.

Fyfe, President & CEO of PSP Investments, goes to the gym every
lunchtime. He used to tell me that working out is part of life that he
absolutely needs to get through a long day. I always admired his
dedication to exercising, especially since his days are so packed with
back to back meetings.)

Another important aspect of health is
diet. Everything you put into your body - everything - can potentially
nourish or harm it. If you eat crap, you'll feel like crap. Everyone
knows it, but few people think before they order foods loaded with
saturated fats and carbohydrates and drink sodas loaded with sugar or

The Jerusalem Post recently posted an article on a two-year weight loss study held in Israel which revealed that dieters who consume milk lose more weight on average than those who don't:

new weight loss study conducted in Israel has revealed that dieters
who consume milk or milk products lose more weight on average than
those who consume little to no milk products.

The two-year
dietary intervention study, of 300 overweight men and women in middle
age, was carried out by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). The
researchers found that regardless of diet, dieters with the highest
dairy calcium intake - equal to 12 oz. of milk or other dairy products,
lost about 12 pounds (6kg) at the end of two years.

Higher vitamin D levels in successful dieters

was known that over-weight people had lower levels of serum vitamin D
but this is the first study that actually shows that serum Vitamin D
increased among people who lost weight," says Shahar. "This result
lasted throughout the two years that the study was conducted, regardless
of whether [participants] were on a low-carb, low fat or Mediterranean

Vitamin D increases
calcium absorption in the bloodstream and in addition to sun exposure
can be obtained from fortified milk, fatty fish and eggs. Americans
generally consume less than the recommended daily requirement of
Vitamin D which is found in four glasses of milk (400 international

The study, which was published in the current
issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was part of the
Dietary Intervention Randomized Control Trial (DIRECT) held at the
Nuclear Research Center in Israel in collaboration with Harvard University, the University of Leipzig, Germany and the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

322 moderately obese people, aged 40 to 65, took part in the study
evaluating low fat, Mediterranean or low-carb diets for two years.

earlier findings, scientists discovered that low-fat diets aren't the
best way to lose weight, but that dieters are likely to lose more
weight on a Mediterranean diet, or a low-carb diet.

The study was supported by the Israel Ministry of Health and the
Israel Dairy Council, the Israel Chief Scientist Office, German
Research Foundation and the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Research

the importance of higher doses of vitamin D? I'm not a big believer in
milk, and cut it almost completely out of my diet 14 years ago when I
got diagnosed with MS (still like some cheeses once in a while like goat
cheese), but I'm a huge believer in vitamin D. Roughly four months ago,
I increased my intake of vitamin D to 20,000 IUs - far above
recommended doses. I read about a study where MS patients taking 15,000
IUs a day saw benefits, so I had nothing to lose by increasing my doses
(20 drops of vitamin D liquid in a glass of water first thing in the

And what happened? I lost 10 lbs and feel better than
I've felt in a very long time (note: I take no other medication). Sure,
the trip to Greece helped, but I know my body, and I am not imagining
anything when it comes to vitamin D. Another benefit is that those who
take large doses of vitamin D will rarely if ever get the flu. My buddy,
a radiologist, just went through a nasty bout with the flu, and so did
his wife and children. It wiped them all out. I told him to test my
theory on D and he's starting to believe me (I don't even bother with
the flu shot, which is recommended for people suffering from chronic
diseases. Don't take me as an example, however, and listen to your

And what are Canadian doctors saying about vitamin D? Unfortunately, as reported by the CBC, some governments are trying to limit the number of vitamin D tests ordered by doctors while provinces report higher demand for such testing over the past few years:

governments are trying to limit the number of vitamin D tests ordered
by doctors while provinces report higher demand for such testing over
the past few years, CBC News has found.


Physicians order tests
for levels of the sunshine vitamin for people with conditions such as
osteoporosis, rickets, malabsorption syndromes and renal disease. Some
family doctors are also ordering the test to screen healthy people for
the level of vitamin D in their blood.


studies over the past five years have suggested vitamin D protects
against different forms of cancer, staves off multiple sclerosis and
fights infection.


In Ontario, demand has increased to more than
700,000 tests last year, from 29,000 in 2004. In emails to CBC News,
British Columbia reported a 100 per cent increase in costs in one year,
and in Alberta, Calgary has had a 400 per cent increase in tests in
two years.


Ontario is considering paying for tests only when a
doctor suspects a serious deficiency. The cost of the test ranges from
$93 in B.C. to $32 in some Ontario labs.


At least five other
provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and
Newfoundland and Labrador — have a similar restriction.


change means doctors are losing the ability to screen their patients
for vitamin D deficiency, said Dr. Linda Rapson, a general practitioner
in Toronto.


"This is a big mistake," said Rapson, past-chair of
the Ontario Medical Association's complementary medicine section. "This
will be a lost opportunity to promote health and prevent disease.
That's what it looks like to anyone who's been following the research


Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald said doctors
in the province give priority to people with bone disease when
ordering tests.


"If someone is appearing to be completely healthy
but is very interested in their vitamin D status, what would likely
happen is a doctor would advise that supplementation should begin, and
that person would be put on a list to have that test at a later date,"
said Oswald.


Some patients take supplements and still don't
absorb enough vitamin D, said Reinhold Vieth, a vitamin D researcher at
Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.


"Without testing, the doctor is functioning blind," said Vieth. "You're guessing."


is no consensus among doctors and researchers on optimal vitamin D
levels, which Health Canada is reviewing. Physicians take into
consideration factors such as latitude, skin colour, age over 50 and
whether patients spend little time outdoors, which can influence how
much vitamin D is absorbed.


'Key piece of my health picture'


broadcaster and writer Gill Deacon of Toronto was diagnosed with
breast cancer in April of 2009, she said guessing at her vitamin D
levels wasn't an option. In addition to the recommended medical
treatments of surgery and radiation, she looked at her diet and started
monitoring her vitamin D levels.

"Getting that information on a
regular annual basis and showing the progress or not and how much my
supplements are working and what needs to be done, I mean, it's a key
piece of my health picture," said Deacon.


Deacon said she'll continue to get the test, which is labour-intensive to perform, regardless of the cost.


physician Dr. Bowen Chan in Toronto is also concerned about vitamin D
levels of some of his patients, such as postmenopausal women.


people, they're coming from different countries, so they might have
different levels or different exposures to sunlight, which is a natural
source of vitamin D," said Chan. "So doing a blood test would actually
help me determine if they actually need it or whether I need to adjust
the dose."


Earlier this year,
Statistics Canada reported that two-thirds of Canadians have blood
levels of vitamin D falling below the level researchers now believe
offers increased health benefits.

is a strange country. We extol our health and education system but the
reality is we do very little to promote lifestyle changes that prevent
diseases, starting with educating people on proper diets and exercise
programs. And don't get me started on the Liberation War,
which is still raging. As the Canadian government drags its feet on
getting proper trials going, many MS patients are forced to go to
countries like India and Bulgaria where the vast majority have been
reporting positive outcomes after the surgery.

So this Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for, but not the
wisdom of some of my government officials and elected politicians who
continue to surprise me by taking stupid decisions on a lot of fronts,
including the most important aspect of all, our health.

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PeterSchump's picture

"Some governments are trying to limit the number of vitamin D tests ordered by doctors"


Bwaaahaaahaaahaaa!  Single payer makes you free! (Arbeit macht frei! auch?)

chindit13's picture

"If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself"

-Eubie Blake on his 100th birthday

Bob's picture

Nice piece, Leo!  Both moving and edifying, a wonderful and rare combination of qualities. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 

PhattyBuoy's picture

Leo - I was in Ontario recently, & saw the strangest thing. Went into a Beckers store (711 equivalent), and walked to the check out counter to pay for an item. The expansive wall area behind the clerk at the register was completely void of any advertising and no items were displayed for sale. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a wall of opaque compartments, where one would normally find cigarette & tobacco products. In a retail store, this is usually a coveted area to display items for sale, and is always reserved for tobacco products & like. All the Beckers retail stores were like this. I asked the clerk "where are the cigarettes". She said, "we are not allowed by law to display cigarette or tobacco products to the public". Incredulously, I said "what"?

The Ontario (state) government does not allow retail vendors to display "harmful /addictive" retail products for sale in their retail stores. The products are still there, just concealed out of sight in opaque, non-descript compartments. The clerk took 3 minutes to find the tobacco product I desired, because she had to read the text on compartment to find the item, as no visual aid is provided. It is one of the more bizarre things I have (never) seen in a retail store.

I am thinking to myself, how do you survive as a retailer in Ontario, if you cannot display the items that you are selling? Only in Canada ...

hedgeless_horseman's picture

If we just have more laws to protect us, then we will be safe.

The Alarmist's picture

I would have thought that 1-2k IUs was within reasonable, but isn't 15k running the risk of toxicity?


gwar5's picture

Lifestyle changes and prevention are overrated in cost savings. I wish they weren't, but they are.

As a physician, I know that people will always die and 80% of the cost of health care is at the end of life, whether it's a car accident with major intervention or chronic illness and slow decline. Chronic illness costs more but is offset by the fact they don't live as long, so there you go.

If we could genetically engineer humans to be disease free, they would still die and attempts at prolonging life will still cost 80% of the health care money.

If people want to work hard, plan ahead, to save their money so they can spend it to live longer that is their choice. Rationing is politically arbitrary and Soviet-like. People should choose, not the state.

Shiznit Diggity's picture

Your math is specious. I don't disagree that end-of-life care would account for 80% of healthcare expenditures regardless of the prevalence of healthy lifestyles and prevention but healthy lifestyles and prevention reduce total healthcare expenditures, so the 80% would be a smaller number in absolute terms.

Leo Kolivakis's picture

"Lifestyle changes and prevention are overrated in cost savings. I wish they weren't, but they are."

Agreed to a point, but you can't possibly tell me the obesity epidemic which started in the US and is now spreading rapidly across the globe isn't preventable and worth tackling. We do not allow people to smoke in public places but we allow them to eat absolute garbage which is cheap, but ends up costing society billions in healthcare costs.

Conrad Murray's picture

But, but, I spent 90% of my life trying to keep the hamster wheel spinning.  Now that I'm old and decrepit I finally realized it was a waste and I haven't yet lived.  You have to pay for my stupidity.  It's not fair that I have to die, it's not fair!!!!

robertocarlos's picture

So that's why milk is so expensive in Canada. They are trying to kill us.

Babalooee's picture

Good points Leo. Garbage stocks are nothing compared to the garbage people eat. Too bad about dairy, it's often the tailings pond of the pesticide chain.

kaiserhoff's picture

That's odd.  I thought the Canadian diet consisted of coffee, donuts, and high octane beer.  Must be the crowd I hang with.

Canadian chicks seem to actually like men, as do Europeans (except Russians) and Ozzie gulls.  If you could get that in the milk, I'd take another look at those Chinese solars. 

i.pagnottella's picture

Hello Leo, I was born in Canada and grew up there, now I live in Italy. I remember we were all bloated when we lived in Canada, I think the meat is full of hormones or something. the Mediterranean countries are totally corrupt but the people are healthier it's true. I wanted to ask  you, don't you think a good investment would be farmland in Canada? it's a lot less polluted the Europe, and Canada isn't as bankrupt as the Euro zone...

billwilson's picture

On vitamin D, why test levels? It makes no sense. Just get everyone to take supplements.As far as we know there is no downside to Vitamin D supplements, so just atke them and save on the cost of a useless test that only makes money for the testing companies.


Shiznit Diggity's picture

Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it's stored in the body. Taking too much of it can be toxic, but you'd have to take megadoses to be at risk. I take 5,000 IU daily. Leo's dosage of 20,000 IU is probably also safe but if I were him I'd have my blood tested annually to be sure.

Gunther's picture

Vitamin D is fat soluble and almost not water soluble.

That means in milk it goes into the fat that get skimmed as butter or added back again.

Few years ago german nutrition Chemist Udo Pollmer wrote a book "Getting sick by eating heath food" (German)


There he stated that in North American dairies the vitamin D is added before skimming the milk. In one small dairy they forgot to stir after adding the vitamin and few customers who got a heavy overdose died.

Adding vitamin D before skimming the milk has another aspect: The Vitamin ends up in the butter!

The vitamin D from the butter transports calcium into the body what has to go somewhere. It looks like too much calcium clogs the arteries.

On a side note, in Germany there is no vitamin D added to the milk (and butter).

To get the proper amount of Vitamin D I try to get sunlight if possible.

Deflation's picture

I'm so tired of all these health-safety Nazi's that think they should manipulate people's diets.  Stop putting poison in the food to start with, and it won't need to be micromanaged. Please die Communist Gustapo Scum.

saladbarbeef's picture

No, Canada is a strange country because it's Canada.

Mercury's picture

Milk is specifically designed to turn a 200 pound baby cow into a 400 pound baby cow in like a week and a half. Not exactly a diet food for humans. We're talking saturated, heart clogging butter fat here.  Most Americans (and a lot of Canadians) should have enough *ahem* surface area to absorb the necessary amount of vitamin D from sunlight.  Put down the Ben & Jerry's, get off your fat asses and go outside once in a while.

Besides, how come all those lactose intolerant Asians are so skinny? (RoboTrader, throw us a bone here please).

blacksheep's picture

There are no baby cows. A cow is an adult female cattle that has had a calf.

I do agree that people need to get out in the sun more often. The fear of skin cancer causes many people to cover up or wear sunscreen. Skin cancer has been increasing as sunscreen use has been increasing, which makes me wonder if it might be causing it.

robertocarlos's picture

NA Asians are getting pretty fat.

billwilson's picture

WRONG! For much of the year (October to March) sunlight will not provide enough Vitamin D (it is too low in the sky for those in Canada and the Northern Tier of the US). This is especially true for those with darker skin - afterall it appears that white skin was an adaptation related to living in far northern climes.

masterinchancery's picture

Vitamin D3 in large quantities seems to have many beneficial effects, even more so in a dank climate like canuckland.

masterinchancery's picture

And the human body seems to get worse at making D as it ages, so go for 2000 iud minimum.

granolageek's picture

I hope the numbers you use for trading aren't that sloppy. A calf can gain 3-4 lbs/day max, so 40-80 in a week and a half yes, 200-400, not in this universe.

Mercury's picture

Whatever. 40-80lbs. weight gain in a week and a half doesn't exactly = diet food either.

Azannoth's picture

There where some studies made, that show a relation with milk consumption and cancer so idk about milk

Dollar Bill Hiccup's picture

Good job Leo. Quality of life is not determined solely by material objects. Health is certainly taken for granted. The cult of materialism makes you a cog in the machine. Problem number one. The second problem is, even if you can't escape the machine, no one really takes the time to oil you unless you take it upon yourself ...

hedgeless_horseman's picture

The Family Cow as a Measure of Wealth


The family cow has historically been a family's single biggest store of wealth. Until quite recently, in places like Ireland and Texas, cattle were the primary measure of wealth even for chieftains and barons. Some say that cattle still are the only measure of real wealth. Is anyone going to argue that wealth is better stored in Federal Reserve Notes, pieces of paper representing a debt owed to a private bank by a government's treasury and guaranteed solely by taxing authority? Unlike fiat currency, a milk cow produces wealth. The dollar destroys wealth, having lost more than 95% of its purchasing power since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1912.

Many people believe that raw, unpasteurized milk, has health benefits beyond that of the commercial milk available in stores. All I know is that raw milk tastes better, and our kids will not drink the stuff from the store. Our one milking shorthorn easily keeps her calf plus 7 teenage boys, 6 adults, 4 dogs, and dozens of chickens very well fed, with plenty left over for cheese.