* the opinions expressed are those of the author and not Nutrition Ink.
USDA recommendation: 3 cups of dairy per day for adults to improve bone health.
Actually: Dairy is not a suitable option for everyone on daily basis.
Human is the only species that consumes milk or milk products from another animal in adulthood. Cow’s milk is not designed for human consumption but for a rapidly growing calf. The nutrition content of 3 cups of whole milk is:
All of which may cause an imbalance in the body, if you consume 3 cups of dairy every day.
Yes, milk is an excellent source of protein. However, the majority of the population in the US are not protein deficient. In fact, if you consume 3 cups of dairy that contain around 24 grams of protein, it will be an extra 100 calories intake per day. Rather than acknowledge that protein also comes from other food sources, some people seek out “milk” as if they are missing something if they don’t have it, which is what the dairy industry advertises and promotes.
More evidence is surfacing that milk consumption may not be helpful. A prospective cohort study followed over 120,000 men and women for 32 years and found no association between greater milk consumption and lower risk of hip fracture in older adults. A randomized control trial in 240 healthy puberty boys and girls reported that dairy consumption had no effect on bone mineral acquisition.
Studies that looked into the effects of fortified nutrients in the milk on bone health come up short as well. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition included a meta-analysis study that examined the relationship between calcium intake and hip fractures. Many studies with large sample size (over 200,000 men and women) found that calcium intake was not associated with lower risk of hip fracture.
Besides the vague effects on bone health, lactose intolerance is another factor that should be considered when making recommendations. About 75% of the world’s population have lactose intolerance, and from which 20% are US population. People who are lactose intolerant have digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, and even reflux. A Swedish study conducted a cohort study in 22788 lactose intolerant
participants. The results showed a decreased risk of lung, breast, and ovarian cancers among individuals with low or non-milk consumption.
I don’t mean that you should eliminate milk or dairy from your diet. But when consuming the product, keep it in mind that the 3 cups of dairy per day may not be suitable for you even if it’s recommended by USDA. In addition, if people are deficient in a certain nutrient, they should definitely be treated with supplementation. However, most of the American population are not deficient in these nutrients, and that’s whom the recommendation targets and the dairy industry pitches to.
Be mindful of what you eat and keep a balanced diet. There is no clear result that healthy adults need three cups of dairy every day. But there is nothing wrong if you like milk and dairy products. Just consume it in moderation.
Byberg L, Michaëlsson K. Comments on Feskanich et al.: Milk and other dairy foods and risk of hip fracture in men and women. Osteoporosis International. 2018;29(5):1221-1222.
Vogel KA, Martin BR, Mccabe LD, et al. The effect of dairy intake on bone mass and body composition in early pubertal girls and boys: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017;105(5):1214-1229.
Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Dawson-Hughes B, Baron JA, et al. Calcium intake and hip fracture risk in men and women: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007;86(6):1780-1790.
Ji J, Sundquist J, Sundquist K. Lactose intolerance and risk of lung, breast and ovarian cancers: aetiological clues from a population-based study in Sweden. British Journal of Cancer. 2014;112(1):149-152.