People increasingly drink less milk. Milk consumption in the U.S. is down 6 percent since 2015, in large part due to increasing interest in lactose-free, dairy-free, and plant-based vegan options. Plus, many have simply decided that milk, like eggs and coffee and anything else that isn't "new and improved" but tastes good, probably isn't good for you.

As a result, an estimated 2,700 family dairy farms went out of business last year. Since 1992 over 90,000 dairy farms have stopped producing milk. 

Less supply means higher wholesale costs. Less demand means lower retail prices. That's why two of America's largest milk producers, Dean Foods and Borden Dairy, have filed for bankruptcy in the last two months.

So yeah: People drink a lot less milk.

Which is too bad, because milk just might be a super food--helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, increased blood pressure, depression, muscle weakness, and headaches. For anyone hoping to make smart decisions, think quickly on their feet, lose or maintain weight, and stay on top of their professional and personal lives--basically everyone--the dairy case standby should make it into your regular rotation.   

Don't believe me? Check these out:

  • A broad range of research shows adults with low vitamin D levels may lose their memories and thinking abilities faster than those with normal vitamin D levels; between 70 and 90 percent of the people studied who suffered from cognitive impairment were also deficient in vitamin D.
  • Low vitamin D levels are linked to various manifestations of degenerative cardiovascular disease, including vascular calcification--basically, mineral deposits that build up on artery walls. (How's that for an icky thought?)
  • Vitamin D deficiency can also increase the risk of chronic headaches. ("Chronic" meaning at least one headache a week, which sounds like a light week for most entrepreneurs.)

And then there's this: Research shows people who drink more milk lose more weight. People who drank 12 ounces (approximately 1.5 glasses) of milk per day lost 12 pounds at the end of a two-year study; people who drank, at most, half a glass of milk per day only lost 7 pounds. 

Other research shows greater consumption of total dairy products may be important in preventing weight gain in middle-aged and elderly women.

Why? Higher blood levels of vitamin D have been linked with successful weight loss. So has calcium--research shows that approximately half of obese people have significant calcium deficiencies. Some scientists theorize that sufficient calcium reduces the desire for food. (Put another way, if your body senses it needs calcium, it might ramp up your appetite in an effort to overcome that deficiency.)

In a win-win for milk, vitamin D also helps your body absorb calcium.

Granted, you can get vitamin D and calcium from other sources. And it's possible to get too much vitamin D--the Institute of Medicine recommends 4000 IU per day as an upper limit--so taking a supplement with 2,000 IU per day should be plenty, especially since the recommended daily amount is 600 IU. (As always, talk to your doctor for guidance specific to your individual needs.)

Calcium supplements are also widely available; the recommended amount for adults is 1,000 mg per day. For women over 50 and men over 70, the recommend amount increases to 1,200 mg per day. 

But here's the thing: Milk naturally provides a host of essential vitamins and minerals that can help improve your mental and physical performance.

And it can help you lose weight, especially if you drink a glass of skim milk right before you eat, partly filling your stomach and helping you feel full faster. Since we tend to eat for taste, we also tend to eat past the point of feeling full--and that's one reason we put on weight.

All, you might help the nation's remaining family dairy farmers stay in business.

Which, if you like to support other entrepreneurs, could be reason enough to drink a little more milk.