Time to Question Everything You Know About Milk
We reviewed over 100 studies and conclude that milk recommendations for Americans are not based in evidence
It’s perhaps the most widely advocated nutrition recommendation of the last half-century: For strong bones and overall health, consume three servings of reduced-fat milk a day.
The USDA’s “ChooseMyPlate” dedicates a corner of their icon for milk and equivalent dairy products (Figure 1).
Schools must offer fat-free or 1% low-fat milk at lunch and other meals. To get kids to drink it, the government allows chocolate and other sugary varieties — but not plain whole milk!
And celebrities from Jennifer Aniston to Taylor Swift have donned the milk mustache, assuring us that milk does a body good.
To comply with this recommendation, Americans would need to double their intake (now averaging one and a half glasses a day), which would amount to billions of extra gallons a year. However, my colleague Walter Willet at Harvard and I examined over 100 studies and we conclude, in a new article in New England Journal of Medicine, that the evidence in support of this long-standing recommendation is surprisingly thin.
The most common health reason for drinking milk is to strengthen bones, to create a “bank” for calcium throughout life and prevent fractures. None of this seems to be true.
The purpose of animal milk
Because the natural purpose of cow, goat, or sheep milk is to help young animals grow quickly and avoid predators, it contains all essential nutrients, including protein and calcium. For this reason, milk can provide a nutritionally balanced alternative to the sugary drinks, chips, and other low-quality, processed foods that have flooded our diets.
Milk also contains a variety of growth-promoting factors. But today, the milk supply has increased levels of hormones like…