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Milk: It Does a Body Good -- or Does It?

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Several studies of a possible type 1 diabetes/milk link have been published and the results are ambiguous Hillary Wright, RD, MEd, nutritionist for Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston, tells WebMD. "I have two brothers with type 1 diabetes and so I am interested in this area. I have never seen firm evidence to suggest that cow's milk promotes diabetes."

 

However, a negative for milk is "the reports in some cancer prevention and cancer survivor literature that milk -- because of bovine growth hormones taken by cows -- can increase the risk of cancer or cancer recurrence. Many times oncologists will recommend that patients be taken off dairy products because of this fear," says Wright.

 

She says that she advises patients to carefully consider the options before removing dairy products. "I ask them, 'Ok, how are you going to replace this? What will be your other sources of calcium? Of vitamin D? Of protein?'" She says that a better approach is to use only "organic, hormone-free milk. You can find this readily available in supermarkets and specialty stores.""

 

Although Turner and the PCRM question milk consumption at any age, most groups support milk drinking by children younger than two, says Kava. "The brain is growing so fast at that time, that whole milk is really needed."

 

At the University of Vermont in Burlington, Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition and associate dean for research, has been studying calcium intake by children. Johnson tells WebMD that her work has convinced her that in order for children to meet the recommended daily requirement of calcium, "they need to drink milk."

 

She says she was sold on this idea when "we did a study of where teenagers consumed their noontime meals. We found that in terms of diet quality, those who ate the school lunch meal instead of bringing a bag lunch or eating elsewhere had higher calcium intake then the other children." She says that the "drink of choice with a school lunch is milk."

 

She then conducted a national study of children aged 5 to 17 and discovered "that a mother's milk consumption is a good predictor of both the amount and type of milk a child consumes." She says that if the mother regularly drinks milk, "chances are the child will be a milk drinker." And if the mother's milk choice is skim, the child is likely to pick skim as well, she says.

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