Sep 22, 2021

Share this article

Your mother was right when she told you to drink up your milk, not only because it strengthens the bones (even though there is plenty of fake news on the Internet claiming milk is “bad” for you).

A few days before Shavuot, the Jewish festival marking the Giving of the Torah – which is symbolized by milk and honey – the Israel Cancer Association has publicized the results of a new foreign study on an important benefit of milk. The observational study recently published in the Frontiers in Oncology found that regularly drinking milk significantly reduces the risk of contracting malignant tumors of the head and neck that are called nasal and pharyngeal cancer.

There are several reasons why it is traditional to eat dairy products in honor of Shavuot. When the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, they received special instructions on how to slaughter and prepare meat for eating. Until then, the Jews had not followed these laws, so all their meat – plus the cooking pots – were now considered “not kosher.”  So the only alternative was to eat dairy, which requires no advance preparation.

In addition, the Torah is likened to milk, as the verse says, “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Just as a nursing mother can fully sustain the body of a baby, so took the Torah provides all the “spiritual nourishment” necessary for the human soul

Another name for Mount Sinai is Har Gav’nunim, the mountain of majestic peaks. The Hebrew word for cheese is gevina, etymologically related to Har Gav’nunim.

Another reason given by the Aish Hatorah website is that Moses was born on the seventh day of Adar, and he was kept at home for three months before being placed by his mother in the Nile River on the sixth of Sivan.

Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted Moses and took him to live in Pharaoh’s palace. But what would he eat? Moses kept refusing to nurse from Egyptian women. The Talmud explains that his mouth needed to be kept totally pure, as it would one day communicate directly with God. Finally, Pharaoh’s daughter found one woman who Moses agreed to nurse from – Yocheved, his biological mother!

The study was carried out in five major hospitals in Hong Kong between 2014 and 2017 and included 815 patients and 1,502 healthy patients who were a control group.

Drinking milk as teens or young adults appears to be a protective agent against these cancers — drinking more than five cups of milk a month reduced the risk of cancer by 32% in people who drank when they were 13 or 18 or 19 to 30.

Scientific studies indicate that maintaining a healthy body weight, good nutrition and its various components – and exercise – reduce the risk of developing various types of cancer.

Participants in the study were asked about milk consumption habits during their lifetime. In addition, they were asked about other dairy products that were eaten in childhood and later on, such as ice cream, yogurt, and cheese.

The researchers divided the questions into four different lifetimes in the past, when they were six to 12, 13 to18, and 19-30 years old, as well as the practices of drinking milk and eating dairy products at the time of ten years prior to enrollment. The participants were divided into three groups, the abstainers from dairy products, the occasional group (fewer than five cups milk or eight servings of other dairy products per month) and a group of those who regularly consumed milk (more than five cups or eight servings of other dairy products per month).


The findings of the observational study showed that drinking more than five glasses of milk per month reduced the risk of nasal and pharyngeal cancer in 26% of those who drank milk at age six to12, 32% of those who drank milk when they were 13 to 18 and 28% of those who drank milk when they were 19 to 30 and 28% of those who drank milk during the 10 years prior to enrollment. No benefits were found from eating dairy products other than milk.

The Cancer Association recommends that those who like milk should consume it as part of a balanced diet that includes all the food groups, dietary fiber, especially fresh vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors. More than a third of cancer cases can be prevented by adopting a healthful lifestyle, including abstinence from smoking, obesity, and lack of physical activity.