By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

Epidemic obesity rates compelled the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among other organizations, to advise limiting all caloric drinks, with one exception. They recommended drinking three 8-ounce servings of reduced-fat milk daily. This is puzzling.

Why is milk still being touted as a staple of the American diet when 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, the main sugar found in milk, after infancy?

Symptoms of lactose intolerance usually begin 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking milk products and include bloating, cramping, gurgling sounds in the lower belly, gas, loose stool, and/or vomiting. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, milk is also linked to type 1, or juvenile-onset, diabetes and other serious conditions.

Dr. David Ludwig, a Boston Children’s Hospital pediatrician, and Dr. Walter Willet, a nutrition researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, investigated this daily recommendation and found that it simply doesn’t add up. In their 2013 research article titled “Three Daily Servings of Reduced-Fat Milk: An Evidence Based Recommendation?” published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” they reported: “Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk … Adequate dietary calcium for bone health, often cited as the primary rational for high intakes of milk, can be obtained from many other sources.”

In addition, bone-fracture rates throughout the world tend to be lower in countries where people don’t consume milk, compared to countries with high milk consumption, Ludwig and Willett wrote.

Calcium-rich bones are not built from the teat of a cow. We build them through physical exercise, exposure to sunlight – which allows the body to produce the bone-building hormone vitamin D – and by eating plants high in calcium, especially green vegetables and legumes like beans. Gram for gram, cooked kale has more calcium than milk.

This daily recommendation is simply illogical. On one hand, it tells us to limit all caloric drinks but on the other, tells us to drink three daily servings of milk, which is high in sugar.

One cup of Coca-Cola has 6.75 teaspoons of sugar; Nestlé chocolate milk has 7.5 teaspoons of sugar per cup; and one cup of white reduced-fat milk has 3 teaspoons of sugar. Total sugar-intake recommendations for children call for 3 teaspoons per day and 8-9 teaspoons per day for grown men. That means just one serving of white, reduced-fat milk a day for children maxes out their sugar limit, and the recommended three servings puts them well over.

Cows’ milk is perfect for the rapid growth of baby cows and that’s what it’s meant for. Americans have been conditioned by our government’s nutrition guidelines, and by powerful marketing campaigns from the dairy industry, to believe that milk is essential for human health. It isn’t, and for many of us, it’s downright harmful.

We cannot keep buying into milk as a necessary food. My hope is that the USDA changes its policy: Instead of recommending three 8-ounce servings of milk per day, they should suggest we drink more water, a concept completely absent from the new-and-improved “My Plate” nutrition guideline.

Drinking water instead of milk might cause us to feel a little lighter and a lot healthier. In the meantime, we can take the matter into our own hands, do what’s best for our bodies, and wait for the USDA to get with the program.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at jackie@thetahealth.com, or find more information at thetahealth.org.