There’s truly a tiny amount of evidence to support the United States Department of Agriculture’s recommendation that adults should drink three cups of milk a day. Perhaps more alarming, however, is the fact that there’s scientific evidence that links milk consumption to an increased risk of death, and yet many Americans continue to drink large portions of the creamy white beverage. What gives?

According to Indiana University professor Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, the claim that milk “does the body good” may have more to do with politics than science.

The New York Times:

There’s not a lot of evidence for [behind claims that milk is good for bones, contains calcium and vitamin D, and “does a body good.”] In 2011, The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published a meta-analysis examining whether milk consumption might protect against hip fracture in middle-aged and older adults. Six studies containing almost 200,000 women could find no association between drinking milk and lower rates of fractures.

More recent research confirms these findings. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics this year followed almost 100,000 men and women for more than two decades. Subjects were asked to report on how much milk they had consumed as teenagers, and then they were followed to see if that was associated with a reduced chance of hip fractures later in life. It wasn’t.

A just-released study in The BMJ that followed more than 45,000 men and 61,000 women in Sweden age 39 and older had similar results. Milk consumption as adults was associated with no protection for men, and an increased risk of fractures in women. It was also associated with an increased risk of death in both sexes…Politics are certainly at play here. Organizations like Dairy Management Inc., a nonprofit organization created by the United States government in 1994, exist to “increase dairy consumption.” Dairy Management created the popular “Got Milk?” campaign. Today, the vast majority of Dairy Management’s funding for its marketing strategies comes from the producers themselves. The U.S.D.A.’s role in promoting dairy was firmly established in the 1983 Dairy Production and Stabilization Act, which made it the business of the government to carry out a “coordinated program of promotion designed to strengthen the dairy industry’s position in the marketplace and to maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets and uses for fluid milk and dairy products.”

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But fear not, milk lovers. As Carroll points out, it’s not about going cold turkey (or cold milk), but rather remembering that “almost everything is perfectly good in moderation, milk included.”

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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