Vitamins in Milk: Getting the Right Amount

Milk is a good source of vitamin D, which helps maintain the levels of calcium and phosphorous needed to build and maintain bone mass. A vitamin-D deficiency disease called rickets was a major health problem in the United States. But in the 1930s, milk began being fortified with vitamin D and rickets is now rare. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults consume three cups of milk servings daily.

One serving is typically a cup of milk or yogurt. Vitamin D can be measured in International Unit or in micrograms (mcg). The government’s Dietary Reference Intakes guide recommends five mcg for adults until age 50, when intake recommendations increase to 15 mcg. About half of adult women are believed to not consume enough vitamin D and may be at risk for weakened bones.

Why Drink Milk?

Vitamin D deficiency causes a disease called rickets in children. Rickets results in skeletal deformities. In adults, a deficiency can cause osteomalacia, which results in weak bones and muscular weakness. Rickets was a big public health problem in the United States until the 1930s, when milk began being fortified with vitamin D. According to the National Institutes of Health, about half of adult women don’t consume enough vitamin D. Vitamin D helps maintain levels of calcium and phosphorous. These minerals are needed to build and maintain bone mass. Vitamin D may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. Milk intake is especially important during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being created.

How Much Milk is Enough?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends three cups of milk servings daily for adults. Generally, one serving is a cup of milk or yogurt, one and a half ounces of natural cheese, such as cheddar or Swiss cheese, or two ounces of processed cheese, such as American cheese. One and a half cups of ice cream or a cup of pudding made from milk also count as one serving. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is five mcg for adults until age 50, when the recommendation increases to 15 mcg. The kidneys help convert vitamin D to its active form, and they may not work as well in older adults. As a result, older adults need more and may need a vitamin supplement.

Different Kinds of Milk Products

Because milk is high in saturated fat, the USDA recommends consuming reduced fat, or 2 percent milk, low-fat or 1 percent milk and fat-free, or skim milk products. One cup of vitamin-D fortified milk provides about 25 percent of an adult’s daily requirement. For one cup of whole chocolate milk, those vitamins come with about 200 calories. With one percent chocolate milk, the calorie count drops to about 150. A cup of plain one-percent milk has about 100 calories.

Milk and Weight Loss

Some studies have suggested that consuming three or more servings per day of low-fat or fat-free milk products may enhance weight loss. But according to the Mayo Clinic, other studies have shown no link between weight loss and the consumption of milk products.

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