Milk may not be necessary for most adults

Milk has long been seen as an important source of calcium and other nutrients, particularly for children. But some researchers suggest that it is not a necessary part of a healthy diet for most adults, and may even be harmful if consumed excessively.

Experts quoted on the topic in a January 26, 2021 article in Discover included Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s David Ludwig, professor in the Department of Nutrition, and Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition. They spoke about findings from a review they co-authored in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2020, which argued against current government recommendations that adolescents and adults consume three daily servings of dairy.

There is evidence that drinking milk does help children grow taller, but it may not be as beneficial for adult bone strength as once thought, according to the researchers. They found that countries that consume the highest amounts of dairy tend to also have the highest rates of hip fractures. They also noted that high dairy consumption may be associated with greater risk for prostate and endometrial cancer.

When considering milk’s place in a healthy diet, it’s also important to look at what is served with it, Willett said. While full-fat milk adds saturated fat to the diet, low-fat milk is less satiating, encouraging higher consumption of other foods to compensate.

While there are many milk substitutes available, such as soy and almond milk, they can be high in added sugar. Like milk from animals, they should be considered optional for most adults, according to Willett and Ludwig. The researchers recommend choosing instead other sources of calcium, such as leafy greens, tofu, and fortified orange juice.

Read the Discover article: Is Milk Bad for You? Here’s What the Science Says