Milk: It Does a Health Care System Good
Analysis Suggests Billions in Savings If Americans Eat More Dairy
WebMD News Archive
Billions a Year
McCarron and Heaney estimated the health benefits and health
care cost savings involved if all Americans increased their daily intake of
calcium to the recommended level. For most adults, the recommended intake
ranges from 1,000-1,500 mg per day. Among their conclusions:
- Fractures due to osteoporosis would be reduced by 20% in a year, saving
$3.5 billion in health care costs.
- There would be 5% fewer obese Americans after a year and 25% fewer after
- High blood pressure would be reduced by 40% in one year, saving the health
care system $14 billion.
- The total health care savings over one year would exceed $26 billion.
McCarron acknowledges that the claims may seem exaggerated to
some, but he tells WebMD that, if anything, they underestimate the true
benefits that would be seen if all Americans ate healthy, calcium-rich
"We didn't come up with this $26 billion figure to grab the
headlines," he says. "We believe it is an honest number."
Is Low Fat Better?
While some would argue that the risks associated with eating
higher-fat dairy products outweigh their benefits, McCarron says the clinical
evidence does not back this up.
"You can't find a scrap of evidence in these studies that
low-fat dairy products are better for you," he says. "I think (dairy
fat) is not a fat that people need to be concerned with."
Tufts University nutritionist Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc,
strongly disagrees. While she says milk and other dairy foods are excellent
sources of protein, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals, she also says
people should chose low-fat or non-fat varieties.
"If the implication is that higher-fat dairy products are a
reasonable choice and that there is no reason to choose lower-fat products over
higher-fat ones, I would be concerned about that," she tells WebMD.
Lichtenstein says low-fat and nonfat dairy products are a big
part of her diet, but she says the dairy industry is overstating the science
regarding their health benefits. She cites a recent industry ad showing a glass
of milk with an hourglass figure, designed to promote the beverage's role as a
weight-loss aid. Lichtenstein is director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition
Laboratory at Tufts.