Dairy milk has taken a back seat to environmentally friendly alternatives like almond and soy milk. So just how beneficial is milk? We typically enjoy milk with our cereal, coffee, as a refreshing drink, from childhood. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines suggest people 9+ years old consume 3 cups of low-fat dairy products. However, we’re usually only taking in about 1.6 cups each day. Experts weigh in on whether or not we really need to increase our dairy consumption.
How Beneficial is Milk to Our Health?
Some experts are calling into question the kind of evidence suggesting the proper amount of dairy consumption. Connie M. Weaver of Purdue University explained in 2014 how following a dairy-free diet keeps adolescents from getting the proper amounts of calcium. “[Dairy products] provide…essential nutrients and bio-active constituents for health that are difficult to obtain in diets with no or limited…dairy products,” she states. However, Weaver admits that the evidence of this is based on severely lacking controlled trials. Now, in 2020, studies suggest there may be risks involved with dairy consumption. Dr Walter C. Willet explains his interest in the dairy debate: “…milk is one of the few foods that are specifically part of dietary guidelines in the U.S. and many other countries…” Dr. Willet went on to explain that studies haven’t supported milk preventing bone fractures and even raised some concerns about harming your health. He mentions that milk production has negative effects on the environment. Dairy plays a major role in the production of greenhouse gases.
Limitations of the Studies
Studies that set daily recommendations for milk intake were based on a very small group of people. The studies were also criticized for only spanning 2-3 weeks. Ultimately, there is not enough evidence to suggest milk consumption reduces the risk of bone fractures. In fact, countries with high milk/calcium intake are known to have high rates of hip fractures. This poses the question, does higher milk consumption lead to a greater risk of bone fractures later on?
What Else Can Be Affected?
Milk consumption shows no certain effects on weight management. Further, it doesn’t appear that low-fat milk is better for weight management than whole milk. It’s also apparent that milk doesn’t have a favorable effect on blood pressure or cholesterol. However, milk doesn’t seem to increase the risk of type 1 or 2 diabetes. Results were inconclusive when studying milk’s effects on cancer. Some cancers became increasingly likely with milk, others were just the opposite. In the case of heart disease, dairy in moderation was beneficial. It provides nutritional value and reduces “glycemic load.” Ultimately, dairy isn’t required to maintain a proper diet, but if you enjoy it then it can be a healthy addition to your diet. Limit your dairy intake to a maximum of 2 servings per day, and introduce other vitamin-rich foods into your diet.
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