Medically the review by Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D. — written by Megan Ware, RDN, L.D. — update on march 16, 2020

Cow’s milk, a drink human being often combine with an excellent health, is among the most famous beverages in the united States and Europe.


Milk is a herbal food source for mammals. Animals, consisting of humans, create milk come feed their young till they are all set for solid food.

As such, milk contains an useful nutrients that assist support a cultivation body, including calcium and also protein.

Research about milk is conflicting, however, with various studies explain milk is either an excellent or bad for the body.

Due to increasing concerns around health, lactose intolerance, and animal welfare, plant-based milk, and also dairy alternatives are gaining popularity.

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This post looks at the potential wellness benefits the cow’s milk and also discusses alternatives.


Health benefits of milk

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Share on PinterestThe potassium in milk may help with heart health.
Official sources, such together the dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, recommend that adults eat about 3 cup-equivalent of low fat or fat-free dairy every day as part of a healthful diet.

This lot can encompass milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soybean beans beverages.

The complying with sections look in ~ the feasible benefits the milk for human health.


Milk and also bone health

Calcium is critical nutrient for strong bones and teeth, muscle movement, and nerve signals. Wellness authorities introduce getting sufficient calcium to assist prevent bone fractures and osteoporosis.

Milk uses a rich source of calcium. Manufacturers fortify cow’s milk through vitamin D, one more nutrient the benefits bone health.

While calcium is important, no all studies agree that milk is great for preventing osteoporosis or fractures, as a 2019 review discusses. As result of this discrepancy, researchers still must do an ext research.


Milk and heart health

Milk is a source of potassium, i beg your pardon can assist the blood ship dilate and reduce blood pressure.

Getting an ext potassium while also reducing salt (salt) intake can lower blood pressure, to reduce the hazard of heart an illness and stroke.

Many human being in the U.S. Execute not gain their recommended daily requirement for potassium of 3,400 milligrams (mg) in males and also 2,600 mg for females.

Other potassium-rich foods items besides milk include:

dried apricotslima beansprunes

Cow’s milk additionally contains a high lot of saturation fat and also cholesterol, which have the right to increase the risk of love disease, so human being should eat dairy products in moderation.


Milk and cancer

Milk includes calcium and vitamin D, 2 nutrients the may help protect against cancer.

Calcium may safeguard the gut lining to alleviate the threat of colon cancer or rectum cancer. However, research study has linked too much calcium through prostate cancer.

Vitamin D could play a duty in cell development regulation. It may help protect against colon cancer, and also possibly prostate and breast cancer. However, research has likewise linked high vitamin D levels to an increased risk the pancreatic cancer.

Many factors impact cancer risk. Likewise, cancer deserve to take a long time come develop, so it is an overwhelming to research its causes and also risk factors.

Scientists still need more long-term research study to establish the facts with any certainty.


Milk and depression

Adequate vitamin D levels support the production of serotonin, a hormone human being associate v mood, appetite, and also sleep.

Research, consisting of a 2020 review, has connected vitamin D deficiency v clinical depression.

Manufacturers often fortify cow’s milk and plant milk with vitamin D.


Milk and also muscle building

Cow’s milk helps baby cows grow fast, for this reason it makes sense that cow’s milk can aid muscle growth. Cow’s milk is a rich resource of high high quality protein, containing all vital amino acids.

Whole milk is also a rich source of energy in the type of saturated fat, which deserve to prevent muscle mass from being used for energy.

Low fat milk can provide the benefits of milk when supplying much less fat.


Milk and osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis the the knee at this time has no cure, however researchers to speak they have attached drinking milk every day to diminished progression that the disease.

Their research appeared in the American college of Rheumatology journal Arthritis care & Research.


Nutrition: Milk and milk alternatives

According come the diet Guidelines because that Americans 2015–2020, the dairy product group contains cow’s milk and also soy milk. The group has the following vital nutrients:

calciumphosphorusvitamin Avitamin D (in fortified products)riboflavinvitamin B-12proteinpotassiumzinccholinemagnesiumselenium

The nutritional failure of milk relies on the fat content.

A 100-gram (g) offer of whole milk through 3.25% fat contains:

61 calories3.25 g the fat3.15 g of protein

A 100-g serving of short fat milk contains:

43 calories4.97 g of carbohydrates0.97 g the fat3.48 g of protein

A 100-g serving of soybean beans milk contains:

33 calories1.67 g that carbohydrates1.67 g that fat2.92 g of protein

Some essential nutrients that all milk gives include:

Calcium

Dairy products, consisting of milk, are among the wealthiest dietary resources of calcium. Calcium is important for bone and tooth health, blood clotting, and also blood pressure.

Pair calcium-rich foods items with resources of magnesium and also vitamin D, as vitamin D supports calcium absorption in the small intestine, and magnesium helps the human body incorporate calcium right into the bones.

Choline

Choline is an important nutrient because that sleep, muscle movement, learning, and also memory. It also helps v nerve signals, fat absorption, and also inflammation.

Potassium

Potassium is an important for heart health, which contains reducing the risk of stroke, love disease, and also high blood pressure.

A 100-g offer of cow’s milk contains around 162 mg of potassium, slightly much more than in numerous soy milk beverages.

In the case of lactose intolerance, however, a symptom such together diarrhea deserve to lead come potassium depletion.

Fortified vitamins and also minerals

Manufacturers fortify many milk, consisting of cow’s, soy, almond, and others, with extr vitamins and also minerals that room not existing naturally. These included nutrients incorporate vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, and also pyridoxine.

Exposure to irradiate destroys part vitamins, particularly A and riboflavin, therefore milk that people store in transparent containers will have actually lower nutrient levels.


The following sections look at the possible adverse health impacts of drink milk.

Saturated fats

Dairy is high in saturated fats. The American heart Association (AHA) allude out that eating too plenty of saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels, elevating the risk of heart condition and stroke.

The AHA introduce that world get no much more than 5–6% the their complete calories from saturated fats.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a problem where the body does not create lactase, one enzyme it needs to break down a sugar referred to as lactose the occurs in milk.

An approximated 65% of people have a reduced ability to digest lactose after ~ infancy. The is most typical in world of East eastern descent, influence 70–100% of these populations.

Milk allergy

A milk allergy, or hypersensitivity, is different from lactose intolerance. In an allergy, the human body reacts to the proteins, no the sugars, in milk.

A cow’s milk allergy can cause symptoms, such together wheezing and also asthma, diarrhea, vomiting, and also gastrointestinal distress. Significant allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergy reaction.

Too much potassium or phosphorous

Getting too much of particular nutrients deserve to be harmful. Overconsumption indigenous diet alone is rare, but certain medications or medical conditions can make it an ext likely.

If a person has kidney problems, too much potassium or phosphorous have the right to be harmful. Too lot potassium is well-known as hyperkalemia.

Too much calcium

Too lot calcium, or hypercalcemia, can cause constipation, kidney stones, or kidney failure. That is rare for this to occur from diet alone, yet it have the right to be a risk as soon as a human is taking calcium supplements.

Hormones and antibiotics

Cow’s milk may contain residues of hormones and also antibiotics, and also dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

These residue substances have the right to have a an adverse impact on human being health, consisting of adverse effects on the concerned system, reproductive system, and also immune system. They may potentially raise the danger of certain types of cancer.

While calcium and vitamin D native cow’s milk can benefit bone health, over there is additionally some proof that animal proteins in the diet, because that example, indigenous cow’s milk, have an acidifying effect.

According come Harvard researchers, this could harm bone health by leading to the human body to traction calcium from the skeletal to reclaim optimal blood pH levels. Not all agree v this, however.

As such, the net advantage of calcium in cow’s milk might be lower than expected.

For infants

The Centers for disease Control and Protection (CDC) to speak that babies should not drink cow’s milk before 12 months of age. This is because cow’s milk has actually too countless proteins and minerals for an infant’s kidney to handle and also may put them at threat of minister bleeding.


Anyone who has an allergy or intolerance come cow’s milk, or that is considering preventing cow’s milk for moral or ecological reasons, can shot milk alternatives.

A variety of instead of milks, such together almond, soy, coconut, hemp, and also oat, are available.

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According to the diet Guidelines because that Americans, soy beverages fortified with calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D are part of the dairy food team as castle have similar nutritional composition to milk.

Other milk alternatives made native plants may contain calcium however are not part of the dairy team as your nutritional file is not similar to soybean beans milk or cow’s milk.

Read a comparison guide to various milks, consisting of almond, hemp, oat, soy, and also cow, here, and a guide to dairy product alternatives, including cheese, yogurt, and also butter, here.