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Is drinking milk good for your health?

Many people include milk in their diet, but few meet the daily recommended quantities. Experts now urge us to rethink these recommendations and explain why milk may not be as healthful as we think.

Dairy milk’s image has taken a bit of a beating, with the likes of oat, almond, and soy milk being hailed as environmentally friendly alternatives.

Does that mean we should all look to increase our dairy consumption?


Experts writing in the New England Journal of Medicine do not think so. Instead, they call into question the quality of the evidence underpinning these recommendations and suggest alternative sources to provide us with the nutrients necessary for our health.


Strength of evidence is ‘limited’

Dairy foods play a central role in most dietary guidance recommendations. They provide a package of essential nutrients and bioactive constituents for health that are difficult to obtain in diets with no or limited use of dairy products,” Weaver writes.

Milk has featured in every iteration of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines since its first publication in 1917. Every 5 years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee updates the guide, reviewing the available evidence.

For the purpose of meeting daily nutrient intake, milk and cheese contribute “46.3% of calcium, 11.6% of potassium, and 7.9% of magnesium in the American diet.”

Milk is a ready source of calcium, a mineral central to developing and maintaining good bone function. Yet, the studies that set the daily recommendations for how much milk and by extension calcium, we should consume, were very small

There’s already a good amount of research available on milk and dairy, and it’s one of those things that may be hard to study and get concrete results,”


“Milk intake in habitual milk consumers vs. milk intake in people not used to drinking milk or don’t tolerate milk will give very conflicting and unreliable results. There are also many confounding factors to consider, such as micronutrient status and macronutrient intakes,” she continued. “Milk may confer much more benefit to people who have a lower protein and e.g., calcium intake than people who generally have higher intakes.”


“In addition to that, the dose makes the potion. Consuming too much or too little of anything can have poor health effects. “


“For future research, I think we’d get the most reliable information in well defined randomized controlled trials in well established groups of people of differing ages, with differing habitual intakes, and well recorded nutrient statuses,” Bjarnadóttir proposed. “Those results, coupled with longitudinal observation studies in well established groups of people with a set habitual intake of milk, would give us some good data to work with.”

So it's up to you now is milk really good for the body?

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Americans New England Journal of Medicine Weaver

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