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



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.


Johnson says she supports daily milk consumption by schoolchildren because it is such an easy source of calcium. "Certainly, it is possible to meet one's calcium needs without dairy products. However, for the most part, calcium in other foods is not as readily available. For example, it would take 10 cups of broccoli to equal the calcium in one cup of milk. ... I'm not saying it isn't possible to get calcium and other nutrients without dairy, but I will tell you that when you look nationwide at food consumption the data show that that those kids who are not consuming dairy products on a regular basis are not meeting their calcium needs."


And even Turner agrees with the pro-dairy camp, that calcium is probably needed for bone health. But she says that "a cup of cooked collard greens can give you the same amount of calcium as a cup of milk," and she says that the collard greens are a healthier source of calcium. She also recommends calcium-fortified orange juice, which she says "offers calcium that is almost as absorbable as calcium in milk."

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