No More Milk at School?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has suggested that cow’s milk be removed from school menus across the nation.  Specifically, PCRM has called on the USDA, asking them to issue an amendment to the National School Lunch Act to exclude dairy milk which they call an “ineffective placebo” as a required element of school meals.  What do they want as a replacement?  They suggest a calcium-enriched version of soy milk, rice milk or fruit juice.  Why do they want a swap out?  PCRM’s position is that studies currently indicate that cow’s milk does not appear to reduce the risk of osteoporosis nor does it improve bone health.  Enriched soy milk, rice milk or fruit juice contain calcium and also showcase lower levels of sodium (salt) while free of animal protein, which can actually leech calcium from the body.

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    PCRM strongly argues that science has recently shown that dairy milk has no special or strategically beneficial effect on bone health and does not appear to prevent fractures in children or adults.  It is possible to get calcium from other foods that also happen to have different and sometimes superior nutrition profiles.  In fact, PCRM suggests a diet that includes beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and non-dairy enriched beverages like some soy and rice milks and fortified 100% juice.  PCRM also cites in particular, soy’s ability to enhance sodium levels.  One PCRM expert during a recent interview suggested that that milk doesn’t necessarily help children to grow taller and stronger, and if they persist in drinking whole milk, it can make them heavier.  PCRM would like Congress and the USDA to put children’s health first and foremost, despite the strong dairy lobby in the United States.


    So what do I think?  I have had some concerns that the milk children and teens drink should be included on a list of better when organic foods, because of the routine presence of hormones and antibiotics in these products.  I have also been somewhat impressed by recent studies suggesting that other fortified foods might rival milk’s nutrients or be superior to milk, when it comes to calcium and sodium levels.  I think more research is needed, but unless I can get a family to swap out whole and 2% milk in favor of drinking organic 1% or skim milk, I often recommend unsweetened soy milk (you can get unsweetened vanilla if taste is an issue). Another excellent choice is fortified almond milk and fortified almond/coconut milk.  Having one serving of 100% juice daily is also acceptable, and the best choice is a calcium-fortified, low sugar pure juice option.  A balanced diet should typically include a variety of calcium enriched foods and beverages.  Ongoing research continues to look at cow’s milk as a primary source of calcium.


    How do you get your daily dose of calcium?  Can you name five calcium-rich foods?


Published On: August 22, 2012