Tastes change and dietary trends come and go. One super food is quickly replaced by another one so it’s often difficult to know where to get the best information. Milk has not been immune and has periodically been the target of critics. The USDA made a controversial move in 2005 when it decided to increase the recommended servings of low-fat and non-fat dairy from two to three. The USDA cited calcium, potassium and Vitamin D as reasons to encourage people to drink more milk. Researchers like David Ludwig are highly critical of the fluid milk industry and government programs that encourage consumption (source).
“The worst possible situation is reduced-fat chocolate milk: you take out the fat, it’s less tasty. So to get kids to drink 3 cups a day, you get this sugar-sweetened beverage,” Ludwig says. ”…we can get plenty of calcium from a whole range of foods. On a gram for gram basis, cooked kale has more calcium than milk. Sardines, nuts seeds beans, green leafy vegetables are all sources of calcium.”
Many people consume fluid milk because of the calcium and protein, but it’s a particular kind of milk protein called A2 that can cause digestive problems for many people. Also, there’s still the separate issue of lactose intolerance – the inability of some people to digest milk sugar. Most cow milk produced in the United States contains the A2 protein.
Milk with the A1 protein is increasingly available in the United Kingdom and is being touted as a healthier alternative to what we consume in the U.S (source).
“Originally, all cows produced milk containing only the A2 beta-type protein,” explains Professor Sebely Pal, the leading researcher in nutrition at Curtin University in Perth, who led a new study that was funded by the milk producer a2 Milk. “But owing to a genetic mutation in European herds, another milk protein emerged – A1 – and spread throughout many countries. Today, milk with the A1 protein makes up the majority of milk in our fridges.”
Super Food or Scandalous?
Both sides can get a little out of hand when it comes to the pros and cons of fluid milk. It’s true that adults don’t have to consume dairy products to be healthy. There are other sources for the nutrients found in dairy. For example there’s plenty of calcium in spinach and white beans. However, if you like low-fat dairy products and can consume them without discomfort, they can be a convenient way to get calcium, potassium and protein. Even with the question of whether or not the USDA is unduly promoting the dairy industry it seem the officials at the department sincerely believe low-fat dairy products are a healthy choice for many people (source).