How Much Dairy Is Too Much?

Is it possible to consume too much dairy? Find out from Nutrition Diva. 

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

How Much Dairy Is Too Much?

 by Monica Reinagel, M.S., L.D./N.

Q. I am a very active, 44-year-old male and I drink a lot of nonfat or low-fat milk (several pints a day). I find milk a useful and convenient way of getting nutrients, especially when traveling. I have recently switched from sports drinks to milk during my bike rides and this would add several more liters per week. In addition, I eat 3-4 pints of Greek yogurt a week, as well as cottage cheese. Should I be worried about the hormones in milk particularly estrogen and progesterone?    

A. The issue of hormones in dairy and whether they have a negative effect on human health is a concern, but the evidence is still very sketchy. Higher rates of testicular cancer have been observed in countries with high milk and cheese consumption—however, a correlation like this can be due to literally hundreds of factors that may have nothing to do with dairy foods. And not all studies indicate a negative effect. Some studies have correlated dairy consumption with a slightly lower risk of breast cancer.

See also: Diet and Breast Cancer: Is There a Link?

You might be reassured to know that skim milk is generally low in hormones. (However, this suggests that higher fat dairy products like cheese and butter will have higher hormone levels.) Still, there may be other reasons to consider backing off on dairy and balancing your diet with other nutritious foods. By my rough calculations, you’re taking in about 3000mg of calcium a day (about 3 times the recommended amount)—and recent studies suggest that excessive calcium intake may increase your risk of heart attacks.

See also: How to Keep Calcium Out of Arteries

This is really a perfect illustration of why it’s a good idea to strive for a varied diet. You don’t necessarily need to completely eliminate dairy from your diet. But I would suggest finding some alternative sources of protein and other nutrients so that you’re not quite as reliant on dairy products. Hard-boiled eggs might be a good alternative to cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, for example. And if you’re exercising hard and long enough to require calories and/or electrolytes during your workout, perhaps the sports drinks would be a better choice, in order to avoid overloading your system with so much dairy.

Milk and dairy products from Shutterstock

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.