Reader's View: Doctors’ criticisms of milk are flimsy


September 3, 2013 

As the third-largest milk-producing state in the country, Idaho is well positioned to become the leader in delivering wholesome, quality dairy products around the globe. Therefore, on behalf of our state’s dairy farm families, I’m obligated to respond to a recent and troubling column penned by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen (Idaho Statesman, Aug 25).

I’m not sure what’s more concerning about this meandering piece titled “Milk news that might shake you up” — that the authors cite inconclusive or unproven research to make a murky argument, or that they have the influence to be syndicated nationally without doing their homework.

Specifically, Oz and Roizen are attempting to change perceptions about the nutritional value of milk and milk products. While they allude negatively toward cow milk, the article still recommends a glass or two of milk every day. Regardless of their statements, it’s important to remember that the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans confirmed the presence of dairy in a healthy diet by maintaining the recommendation of three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products for those ages 9 and older.

While the article was quick to point out that their new “findings” aren’t conclusive, the entirety of the article is aimed at pointing consumers to other products to get the same nutrients that milk provides.

That’s a disservice to consumers and to Idaho’s dairy farm families, who lead our state’s agricultural commodity economy in production and in domestic and global exports.

Since the article lazily questioned milk’s nutritional benefits, here are a few facts about milk and milk products based on recent studies and reports:

- Natural sugars occur in many things such as fruit and, yes, even cow milk. However, natural sugars, like those found in fruit, are better for the body than added sugar — something the article compared side-by-side.

- Moderate evidence shows that intake of milk and milk products is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.

- Moderate evidence indicates that the intake of milk and milk products is linked to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents.

- The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identify potassium, calcium and vitamin D as nutrients of concern and recommends eating three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy to help supply these nutrients.

- Lactose intolerance is often confused with an allergy. Rather, it’s an inability of the body to digest the natural sugars found in dairy. Avoiding milk and other dairy foods due to concerns about lactose intolerance is often unnecessary and can lead to nutrient shortfalls.

- Recent studies indicate a correlation between increased dairy food consumption and reduced risk of breast cancer.

As with any product, consumers should have access to all available information. When faced with conflicting messages, it’s up to consumers to decide what is or isn’t acceptable for their own diets.

That said, it’s unfortunate when celebrities with medical influence add more noise to the debate than clarity.

While opinions may occasionally differ among dietitians, doctors and other health professionals, even this article can’t deny that the nutritional benefits of milk are vast.

Karianne Fallow is CEO of United Dairymen of Idaho.

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