Milk was once christened "nature's perfect food," says Mark Bittman at The New York Times. The Department of Agriculture recommends three 8-ounce glasses of the stuff a day (which equals about 1.5 pounds). After all: It builds strong bones, is packed with nutrients, and helps kids grow taller. But drinking dairy can be problematic, and its most notorious ingredient, lactose, is indigestible by a significant percentage of Americans. Here, five reasons milk actually doesn't do a body good:
1. It's high in calories and saturated fat
Ounce for ounce, milk has about "the same calorie load as soda," Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, tells The New York Times. Lactose is still a sugar, and contributes about 55 percent of skim milk's calories. Plus, milk and other dairy products are big sources of saturated fat, "and there are very credible links between dairy consumption and both Type 1 diabetes and the most dangerous form of prostate cancer." One serving of 2 percent milk has even been found to have the same saturated fat count as a serving of french fries.
2. A lot of people can't drink it
In the United States, as many as 50 million people are lactose intolerant: Roughly 90 percent of Asian-Americans can't drink milk, and 75 percent of all African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Jewish-Americans are similarly lactose intolerant. Recent studies suggest soy milk might not be much better: An article published in the Journal of Dentistry suggests that soy milk encourages bacteria in our mouth to produce five to six times more acid than usual, leading to plaque, tooth decay, and cavities.
3. Milk is often full of chemicals
"Commercial milk is disgusting," says Deborah Dunham at Blisstree. The mass-produced stuff is filled with growth hormones and antibiotics used to make cows lactate unnaturally. These additives may make the milk appear white and creamy-looking, but "all of this has been blamed for skin problems, acne, allergies, inflammation of the body," and much more. "Not to mention the fact that drinking cow's milk is simply unnatural — no other species drinks milk from another species except us."
4. Many people are allergic
Sure, the peanut allergy is the number one food allergy in the country. But did you know that the second most common type is "milk allergy"? It affects an estimated 3 million children in the United States. Like peanut allergy, the severity of milk allergy can range from mild reactions to being life-threatening.
5. You don't need milk for strong bones
"You don't need milk, or large amounts of calcium, for bone integrity, says the Times' Bittman. Not only are fracture rates the highest in milk-drinking countries, but it turns out that the biggest two factors contributing to bone strength are "lifelong exercise and vitamin D, which you could get from sunshine." All of this isn't to say that milk doesn't have its health benefits, says Adam Dachis at Lifehacker. But now there seems to be a likelihood that "dairy is a food you should eat because you enjoy it and not for its claims of better health."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- Comic-Con 2014: Everything we learned about Avengers 2, Batman v. Superman, and more
- The big, gaping hole in the liberal policy arsenal
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- How to trim $500 from your monthly spending
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- A gay Mormon's complicated journey
- 10 things you need to know today: July 28, 2014
Subscribe to the Week