Questioning federal milk guidelines

A recent lawsuit by three doctors alleges that U.S. Department of Agriculture guidance suggesting that Americans consume three servings of dairy each day contradicts current scientific and medical knowledge and is harmful to the quarter of Americans who are lactose-intolerant.

Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, agrees. In an April 29, 2021, article in the Washington Post about the lawsuit, he called the USDA’s recommendation “misleading and irresponsible.”

Willett said that “the primary rationale for high dairy consumption is the idea that we need a huge amount of calcium for our bones to prevent fractures, and that has just not been shown by research. Other parts of the world are cutting back on their milk recommendations, because there isn’t evidence that we need that much.”

A diet high in calcium may reduce the risk for colorectal cancer, but it increases the risk for prostate cancer, according to Willett. Calcium is essential, as are vitamins A and D, but those can be ingested through supplements and plant-based alternatives. For human health, and for the health of the environment, Willett said that it would be more reasonable for the USDA dietary guidelines to suggest zero to two servings of dairy per day.

Read the Washington Post article: USDA dietary guidelines are driven by milk marketing concerns — not nutrition — lawsuit alleges