As a kid, I was encouraged to drink more milk. I usually resisted. I favored colas or orange juice over milk. But, as I got older, I wondered whether my health would be better if I drank more milk.
Even more recently, I've asked myself whether too much milk can actually be bad for you.
In fact, there are risks as well as benefits to making milk your favorite beverage.
When we talk about milk being a healthy choice, we're usually talking about its high protein and calcium content.
In addition, most milk consumed in the United States is fortified with vitamin D. An 8 ounce serving of milk has approximately:
In addition, many people who drink milk would otherwise be drinking something less healthy, such as highly sweetened soda.
Drinking milk has "risks," especially if it's whole milk:
And there are misconceptions about milk that can affect your health. For example:
Some people believe that hormones found in milk or allergic reactions to milk may trigger disease in susceptible persons.
As I read the studies exploring the risks and benefits of milk, I'm led back to the age-old saying about "all things in moderation." If you like milk — or if you're just swayed by the "Got Milk?" ads — stick with low-fat or nonfat varieties. Read the nutritional content labels and avoid excessive calcium intake in your diet.
I'm still not a big milk drinker. And I see no good reason to increase my intake now. There are other ways to get calcium and vitamin D.
And it's not clear that increasing dietary protein is important for most people with normal digestion eating a balanced diet. But, I also see no reason to swear off milk entirely. In my view, moderation is the way to go.
Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. is associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing rheumatologist for over 20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is an active teacher in the Internal Medicine Residency Program, serving as the Robinson Firm Chief. He is also a teacher in the Rheumatology Fellowship Program.