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Up for debate: To drink milk -- or not

Milk Few things in life look as pure and simple as a glass of milk. The ingredient list on the carton is refreshingly short too. All it says is "milk," perhaps along with some added vitamin A and vitamin D. No preservatives, no artificial colors, no high-fructose anything. Just milk.

But like many things that appear simple from the outside, there's a lot going on beneath milk's surface.

That glass is swirling with natural cow hormones, which isn't surprising considering the source. Milk contains sugars found nowhere else in nature, and it offers a particular blend of nutrients -- including protein, calcium, magnesium and potassium -- that you can't get anywhere else.

Yet, almost 8,000 years after nomadic herders realized they could tug at the udders of slow-moving livestock, we still aren't sure how much of the stuff we should be drinking.

The USDA recommends three cups of dairy a day for all adults, but the science behind milk hasn't been settled.

"This is one of the most complicated and interesting areas of nutrition," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, "and we don't have all of the answers."

Read more in Monday's Health section cover story.

Photo: Milk's benefits are touted -- and questioned. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

 
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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.