During the first brief introduction to nutrition given in schools, the four major food groups take center stage. The four major food groups being meat, milk, grains, and fruits and vegetables. A heavy focus is in fact placed on the importance of meat and dairy in the daily North American diet. Dairy Goodness, a site run by Registered Dietitians at Dairy Farmers of Canada. It further states that milk products are an important part of a healthy diet and contribute to normal growth and functioning of the body (1). Their statement is further supported by Health Canada’s recommendation in Canada’s Food Guide. The recommendation states that everyone should drink 500 mL (2 cups) of milk every day (2).
Calcium Recommended Intake
In Western countries such as the United States, they recommended the following intakes for calcium. For children from 4 to 8 years of age, it ranges from 800mg/day to 1300 mg/day. For teens and adults aged 19–50 years, they recommend 1000 mg/day. (The Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005). This recommended intake is extremely high when comparing it to the World Health Organization’s recommended intakes. The WHO recommends an intake of 400-500 mg/day for countries with high bone fractures (6). European Union recommended intake of 800 mg/day for adults (5).
As a matter of fact, dairy industry companies run the majority of the websites providing information about the benefits of dairy. Dairy is also heavily marketed and funded by governments as seen with heavily subsidized dairy farmers. To demonstrate, in the United States alone, there are dairy subsidies of roughly $4 billion paid each year to the dairy industry (3). Although there are articles that support the health benefits of milk, there is extensive research that shows the detrimental side of the daily consumption of animal protein.
Disease and Chronic Conditions
Consuming dairy at the Western recommended quantities raises a number of health concerns. Such as increased risk of cancers, autoimmune diseases, ear infections and allergies in children, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions (3). Because many dairy products are high in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, it may provide excess energy in children that will result in an increase in body weight. Data from a cohort of 12,829 children in the United States suggests that the latter is true even when the children consumed skim and 1% milk (3). Research also links caseins, a main component of dairy, to cancer promotion (3) and more specifically increased ovarian and prostate cancer (4).
The Calcium Absorption Problem
In western societies, dairy is the most recommended source of calcium consumption. However, when studying calcium absorption from different products, research shows that calcium is more readily absorbed from beans and most greens (40–64% absorption) than from milk (32% absorption) (3). Diets high in animal protein and sodium can increase calcium loss, therefore, increasing the calcium absorption issue. As a result of increased dairy intake causing chronic conditions, meat consumption causing loss of calcium; nutritional information is contradictory. Osteoporotic bone fracture rates are not surprisingly highest in countries that consume the most dairy, calcium, and animal protein (3). The WHO recommends increasing physical activity, reducing intakes of sodium and animal protein, and increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables to promote healthy bones (6).
Overall, dairy as a sole source of calcium has proven to be an unreliable source that causes many other chronic conditions and ailments. Consuming beans and vegetables is a more reliable source for daily calcium intake as well as reduces the risk of calcium loss as seen with the consumption of excess animal protein. Many of the companies putting themselves in the position to recommend dairy as an important source of calcium work in the industry and stand to gain financially by promoting these false claims. Canada’s Food Guide should incorporate the side effects of consuming dairy on a daily basis and modify its recommendations.
(1) Dairy Farmers of Canada. (2016). Dairy Goodness. Retrieved from Get Enough:
(2) Health Canada. (2008). Canada’s Food Guide. The Government of Canada.
(3) Lanou, A. J. (2009). Should dairy be recommended as part of a healthy vegetarian diet? Counterpoint. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition(89), 1638S–42S.
(4) Larsson, S. C., Bergkvist, L., & Wolk, A. (2004). Milk and lactose intakes and ovarian cancer risk in the Swedish. The American Journal for Clinical Nutrition(80), 1353–7.
(5) Scientific Committee on Food. (2003). Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of Calcium. Brussels: European Commission Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General.
(6) WHO. (2003). Human vitamin and mineral requirements. Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation, Bangkok. Retrieved October 24, 2008, from ftp://