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Got Milk? The white stuff may contain lots of essential nutrients, but recent research suggests too much isn't good.

An ancestor of the modern cow — the auroch — was first domesticated between eight- and ten thousand years ago in the Fertile Crescent. Though humans drink milk from many other mammals as well, cow milk has played an immensely important role in the human diet in many parts of the world ever since. 

The ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Indus Valley people, Europeans and Hebrews all used and loved cow milk. Today's humans, especially those living in the United States and Europe, have taken their love of cow milk to a whole new level. Slogans like "Got Milk?" and "Milk: It Does A Body Good" prove how much milk has been promoted in the West. 

We modern humans believe in milk — so much that we've gone to extreme lengths to ensure it is free from harmful pathogens, and so much that we have given free milk to school children who can't afford it since 1940.

At about the same time, programs advertising the qualities of cow milk started appearing. A 1940s poster tells people that milk is great for "good teeth, vitality, endurance, strong bones". That's a truth nearly nobody would question today. But is milk really that healthy?

Milk: Why The Good Reputation?

Hear the word "milk" and you'll probably think about strong and healthy bones and teeth right away. Milk is, without doubt, one of the most readily available sources of calcium. It's no secret that calcium is key to healthy bones and strong teeth. Potassium and magnesium, which are also found in milk, are other important contributors to bone health and density.

Together, these three important minerals are also essential for the healing of injuries, blood clotting, the functioning of muscles including the heart, and maintaining a normal blood pressure.

By ensuring you have adequate levels of calcium, potassium and magnesium, you reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney stones, and loss of muscle mass

Because the calcium you consume is much more readily absorbed if you also have adequate vitamin D levels, milk is often fortified with this vitamin. The immune system also makes ample use of vitamin D. Choline, meanwhile, aids muscle movement, brain function, and sleep. The cancer-fighting vitamin B-12 that's so important for blood and nerve health is also present in milk, along with vitamin A, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, and riboflavin.

That sounds pretty impressive, right? When you read about all the good things in milk, you could almost possible to believe that cow milk provides a balanced diet all by itself! Do you want strong bones, healthy teeth, a reduced risk of cancer, an optimally-functioning cardiovascular system, and a smart brain? Milk sounds like the ideal answer, but one recent study questions this common wisdom. 

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