We all know that babies and toddlers need milk (breast milk preferably) to get the nutrients they need to survive and encourage bone growth. But we are one of the only species on Earth to continue drinking milk after toddlerhood. It turns out that drinking milk an adult may not actually be improving our bone health (most lactose-intolerant folks do just fine in that department), but may actually be harmful to bone health later in life.
The New York Times reports on the recent shift in dairy recommendation, and says that despite the USDA recommending that humans drink at least three cups per day, recent studies released by Swedish journal JAMA Pediatrics and the British Medical Journal show regular milk consumption over time increases the risk of mortality and weakens bone structure, leading to increased risk of hip and other bone fractures as test subjects aged.
Even taking into account human error in these experiments, further research has shown very little to no linkage between calcium intake and bone strength. In fact, the fortifying elements of milk might actually come from vitamin D, a vitamin that is not naturally found in cow’s milk, but is often added during the manufacturing process in the United States.
So why is milk so popular during high school health lectures, in elementary schools, and in your pediatrician’s office? It may actually be due to politics. The 1983 Dairy Protection and Stabilization Act made it the business of the USDA to strengthen dairy’s position in the marketplace.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi