Milk and Cookies

Is Whole Milk Becoming a Bipartisan Political Cause?

There’s no denying it. The U.S. House of Representatives has a tough time getting anything done right now. So how come whole milk is suddenly a political issue on which this unruly body can come together in a bipartisan vote?

This week the House passed the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act to permit schools to serve whole milk once again. A majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted for it. But in the Senate, Democrat Debbie Stabenow then blocked a vote on this legislation. Santa Claus will not be pleased with this, says Republican Senator Roger Marshall:

“Milk is the most delicious, most nutritious, wholesome drink known to humankind. There’s nothing else ever been made anything like it.

“If you didn’t leave whole milk out for Santa Claus, then he wouldn’t leave you presents.”

They Have a Point

Honestly, it is absurd to block whole milk from school meal programs. The excuse for it is that the dietary guidelines call for low-fat dairy products – a holdover from the days of low-fat everything as a panacea for dietary health.

But now, the available evidence calls that guidance into question. At best, the guidance is not justified because clear evidence is lacking to claim that low-fat dairy consumption has health benefits. At worst, it’s possible that the guidance is counterproductive for health.

For example, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published a new study that finds a prospective association between low-fat dairy consumption and prediabetes risk. The claim that all saturated fats are harmful and thus the saturated fat in dairy is harmful, too, does not hold up well under critical scrutiny.

Wait for New Guidelines?

Stabenow says that this conversation is important but the legislation is premature. We should stick with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are on their way to being revised in 2025. Her comments on this suggest the possibility for setting a bad precedent:

“School meal standards currently based on dietary science should continue to be based on dietary science, not based on which individual food products that we support.”

Should we wait for the guidelines to catch up with the science and drop the low-fat dairy guidance? Or is the guidelines process stuck? Reversing bad advice on whole milk should not need to become a political cause. But already, it seems headed in that direction.

Click here and here for more on this issue.

Milk and Cookies, photograph by Anna, licensed under CC BY 3.0

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December 16, 2023

2 Responses to “Is Whole Milk Becoming a Bipartisan Political Cause?”

  1. December 16, 2023 at 8:44 am, Mary Hastings Hager said:

    It’s important to keep in perspective just how much fat a carton of whole milk contributes to a child’s overall food and nutrient intake. School lunch dietary guidance is based on science, that’s true, but whole milk fat contribution is hardly the single greatest of dietary fat in this pizza loving, snack food culture.

    People often hold the Japanese public school lunch up as an example for the U.S. “It’s so healthy!” It also includes a carton of whole milk.

  2. December 16, 2023 at 6:22 pm, David Brown said:

    The claim that all saturated fats are harmful is based on motivated reasoning. “Similar to confirmation bias, motivated reasoning occurs when someone actively looks for reasons why they’re right and rejects facts and research that don’t fit their beliefs.” That’s what the American Heart Association has been doing for the past 7 decades.

    Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are known to regulate cholesterol synthesis and cellular uptake by multiple mechanisms that do not involve SFAs… PUFAs are susceptible to lipid peroxidation, which can lead to oxidative stress, inflammation, atherosclerosis, cancer, and disorders associated with inflammation, such as insulin resistance, arthritis, and numerous inflammatory syndromes. (web search – Glen D. Lawrence saturated fat)