Milk Does a Body Good

03.26.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

AP Photo

Jane Jakubczak MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, Redskins Dietitian

I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with a group of up and coming dietitians at the University of Maryland. Occasionally I would like to share their perspective and wisdom with WOW readers. I thought the following was a nice addition to the Dairy Association article on St.Patrick's Day.

Milk Really Does A Body Good!

By Caitlin Fields, Dietetic Student; University of Maryland

Last month, my mother informed me that she heard, "We should all be drinking whole milk instead of non-fat milk.” When I asked her why, she wasn’t exactly sure but had thought she read it somewhere or heard people talking about the benefits of whole milk over non-fat milk. I knew I needed to look into this immediately. I ended up finding a couple of ideas about the benefits of whole milk versus reduced or non-fat milk on a number of different websites, but it seems that the majority of whole milk advocates were basing their beliefs on the following two myths:

Myth #1: Vitamin D is more readily absorbed from whole milk than from non-fat milk, reduced-fat milk or other fortified beverages.

This myth seems to stem from the belief that vitamin D - a fat-soluble vitamin - is more readily absorbed by your body from whole milk because whole milk has a high fat content, while reduced and non-fat milks do not. However, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the opposite is true. The study evaluated peak serum concentrations of vitamin D after subjects drank whole milk, non-fat milk and vitamin D-fortified orange juice, and found that vitamin D concentrations did not differ with the different beverages consumed. These results indicate that the fat content of milk has no direct effect on the bioavailability of vitamin D and that your body will readily absorb it from all types of milk, as well as vitamin-D fortified orange juice.

Myth #2: Whole milk contains more nutrients than non-fat or reduced-fat milk.

Many people believe that whole milk is more nutrient-dense than reduced or non-fat milk, but in actuality, whole milk and non-fat milk differ only in saturated fat content. Whole milk contains 5 grams of saturated fat per 8 oz. of milk, which is 23% of the daily recommended intake of saturated fat for a 2000 calorie per day diet. Non-fat milk, however, is fat-free and contains 0 grams of saturated fat. Saturated fats contribute to high blood cholesterol and the buildup of arterial plaques. Diets low in saturated fat have been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Both whole milk and non-fat milk contain the same amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Calcium is essential to maintaining bone density and heart, muscle and nerve function. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium in the digestive tract. Vitamin D can be obtained from sunlight or from your diet, but only a few food sources contain vitamin D: egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver and fortified milk. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake contributes to the development of osteoporosis.

The Take-Home Message

Milk is a great source of calcium, vitamin D and protein. Whole milk and non-fat milk differ only in saturated fat content and contain the same amounts of calcium and vitamin D. It is recommended that children and adults have 3 servings of low-fat milk or dairy per day to maintain adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D. Non-fat and 1% milks are great alternatives to whole milk as they provide the same nutrients without the harmful effects of saturated fat.

Thanks for setting those whole milk myths straight Caitlin!

A reporter asked me an interesting question this week - She wanted me to name one healthy food that a person could find just about anywhere they go. I thought about it for a few minutes and milk popped into my head. You can find milk at any restaurant, fast food establishment, convenience store, gas station, and even some vending machines. As a dietitian, I consider milk one of the most perfect foods; it contains more essential nutrients than any other food on earth.

So, drink up!

Wishing you a health filled week,

To read more about the benefit of milk and the dairy group visit

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