Healthy Indian’s Note: The milk under discussion in this blog and the dairy we recommend in our recipes, is always milk from grass-fed and pasture-raised dairy cows. We are against industrial dairy farming, where huge overproduction of milk has severe welfare implications for dairy cows, not to mention the drastic impact on the planet. This includes organic milk from large conglomerates. If you must consume milk, buy your milk from small farmers, who respect and treat their cows in a more humane way. Click here to find local real milk sources in the United States.

Cow’s milk has been a well-known source of nutrition and essential part of everyday diet for many people, across nations and centuries. However, recent studies have found that milk could have some harmful effects on the human body. Before accepting the claims from either side, let’s first verify them ourselves. In this article, we will study both pros and cons of drinking cow’s milk so you can make an informed decision.

Here is a screenshot from the Wikipedia page explaining the different nutrition and elements found in pure cow milk:

The chart shows that milk is the highest source of Q protein after chicken liver. In fact, out of 26 essential elements, cow’s milk comprises 18 elements in abundance, including iron, selenium, Vitamins B6, E and K, niacin, thiamine and riboflavin.

Fat content differs from milk to milk. Whole fresh milk holds most of the fats, which are:

  • Saturated: 4.5 grams
  • Unsaturated: 2.5 grams
  • Cholesterol: 24 milligrams


Health Benefits of Drinking Milk:

Helps to control hunger

Drinking milk does not cause weight gain or obesity. Neither does it cause weight loss. As a result, milk consumption can help you control your hunger while providing 18 essential nutrients. It can help regulate total fat consumption with unbalanced eating because of irregular hunger.

Improves bone health in children

Though milk is not associated with weight gain in adults, it indirectly increases a healthy level of weight in growing children. The calcium rich cow’s milk increases bone density in children whereas, casein and whey proteins improve the overall muscle development. In fact, experts have found that milk is better than giving children calcium and protein supplements.

Enriches teeth and bone health in adults

A glass of milk is the source for 30% of the total calcium requirements in adults. In addition, potassium and magnesium support overall bone and teeth health as well. Let’s not forget the vitamin D, which is also 30% of the daily requirements for an adult. Vitamin D eventually balances the calcium and phosphorus in the human body. Overall, calcium, Vitamin D, and phosphorus balance in the body is essential to prevent dental cavities.

Prevents diabetes

Studies have found that a breakfast consisting of fresh milk and a moderate carbohydrate diet can help reduce blood glucose all day. The two high quality proteins (whey and casein) help regulate blood glucose and prevents Type 2 diabetes in adults.

Prevents coronary heart diseases

Cow’s milk improves heart health and helps prevent strokes. As it prevents Type 2 diabetes through blood sugar control, it may reduce the chances of heart strokes. Milk is also a great source of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is a good cholesterol.

Potassium is pure cow’s milk helps regulate blood pressure. Moreover, milk from the grass-fed cows consist of Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, which are essential to prevent coagulation in the blood vessels.

Prevents Osteoarthritis

High quality protein in pure cow’s milk is a great source of amino acids. Whole milk is rich in various saturated fats. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients increase bone strength, which may improve painful symptoms. Dairy is one of the recommended constituents of the diets prescribed for Osteoarthritis patients.

Rich Source of choline

Milk is also a great supplier of choline. Choline is a rich element that supports sleep, motor movement, learning ability and brain memory enhancement. Specially, in children, a glass of whole milk can maintain the structure of cellular membranes and improves the speed of transmission of nerve impulses. One cup of milk contains 38 milligrams of Choline, which is the next big source after eggs.


Cons of Drinking Milk:

Not everyone can tolerate lactose

Not everyone can handle the lactose found in dairy milk. People who suffer with this type of indigestion are lactose intolerant. People with poor lactose tolerance can suffer with the side-effects by consuming milk or any dairy product. The side-effects may include gastric issues, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, and joint pain.

Risk of multiple skin disorders

Whey protein and Casein induce the secretion of IGF-1 hormone. This hormone is very similar to insulin which may promote acne on the face and body. Some people who drink milk regularly may show signs of skin inflammation and sudden acne breakouts.

Contains more than required calorie intake

Milk is not just a heavy source of dozens of nutrients but also a high source of calories. A cup of 2% milk consist of 120 calories. Eventually, a glass of milk will add 360 calories, which is 20% of the total calories recommended for a human body in a typical day. This, added to the calories gained through other food sources in the day, may make the overall intake far more than what one may actually require. Plan your daily diet according to the total milk and dairy products you consume in day-to-day.

Can cause osteoporosis in elderly adults

Osteoporosis is a slowly spreading disease in which bones weaken and lose mass and minerals over a period of time, gradually decreasing bone health and increasing chances of bone fracture. The progression and cause of this disease is different in individual persons. It is most common in elderly women after menopause.

The role of milk and dairy products in escalating this disease is highly controversial. Some physicians believe milk is responsible, while others decline it as a myth. Those who support milk, state “our body digests and releases calcium in different forms. If the released calcium is not compensated, the body starts to replenish it from the bone, which makes bones weaker. So, milk does not cause osteoporosis but actually prevents it. “

Risk of multiple types of cancers

Some studies claim that dairy products cause an increased risk of prostate, testicular, ovarian, and breast cancers. Especially in postmenopausal women, they claim it carries a very high risk. Studies suggest that unregulated consumption of milk and dairy products may increase the risk for prostate cancer. It is because of the bioactive compounds found in milk such as calcium, estrogen, and IGF-1 hormones. However, there are arguments that claim that milk prevents other types of cancers like colorectal cancer since protein, Vitamin D and lactic acid in milk help prevent this cancer.

Different studies have found that milk and dairy consumption is responsible for both prevention and cause of various cancers. The effects differ from person to person. It is better to be safe than sorry – moderate your dairy consumption and plan a balanced intake.

Excess calcium intake is harmful

Some studies claim that the amount of calcium that milk provides is too overwhelming for the kidney to digest it. As a result, the undigested calcium coagulates and forms calcium oxalate stones.

Some studies have found that low calcium intake is not a wise option to prevent kidney stones. In fact, reducing milk consumption increases other risks and bone disorders. The calcium from milk helps regulate animal protein in the body. Omitting milk and depending on animal protein, in fact, increases the chances of the kidney stones.


Key Takeaways

While there are pros and cons of drinking milk, many studies are in favor of milk consumption. Except for allergy issues, there seems to be no strong evidence that milk causes any major disorder. However, I would recommend folks to regulate their milk consumption as excess of anything is not good. If you ever see any complications from milk consumption, you should consult your doctor.

Lily Bhat is a Food expert, dietician and a health advisor. She currently works for Frezu as an advisor. She covers the trends associated with the food & health industry. Connect with her on Quora or Twitter.

Additional Notes: However controversial drinking milk may be, there is certainly evidence that yogurt and kefir are excellent probiotics that are beneficial for the gut. Per Time Magazine “A fermented food, yogurt naturally contains lots of probiotic cultures that strengthen the digestive tract. Some Greek yogurt also boasts added probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei that may help increase the good bacteria in your gut.” Check out our delicious Raw Plantain With Yogurt Curry, Chilled Cucumber Dill Soup, Tomato Onion Raita or, if you feel adventurous, our Easy Homemade Kefir.

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