Cow milk seems to be everywhere, and is often taken for granted, but it has many important health benefits for humans, including its ability to aid in weight loss, build strong bones and teeth, boost the immune system, reduce fat, protect the heart, prevent diabetes, eliminate inflammation, and help stimulate growth.Table of ContentsCow MilkNo matter where you are on the planet, you’ve almost certainly come across cow’s milk.
In most parts of the world, it is the primary animal milk consumed by humans, although goat, sheep, and even camel milk are popular based on the availability of animals. Cow milk (derived from bovines) is intended for sucking by young cows, just as human infants are often nursed with human breast milk. However, the nutritional value and availability of cow’s milk have made it one of the most in-demand liquids on the planet.
More than 6 billion people on the planet drink milk on a semi-regular basis, which means that these animals are an incredibly important part of our global nutritional needs. In fact, most governments have set recommendations for the amount of milk that children should consume on a daily basis. The role of milk in normal growth and development is extremely important, and parents around the world know it.
Cow milk is particularly high in protein, vitamin B, vitamin D, various minerals, organic compounds, and antioxidants that can affect and stimulate the body in many ways. There are ongoing debates as to the full range of medical or beneficial impacts of milk, and even some studies that argue about some of the milk’s inherent dangers. However, the global community has largely gotten on board with the value and essential nature of cow milk, so don’t expect it to leave the shelves anytime soon.
Health Benefits of Cow MilkWith the milk being packed with a range of nutrients, it is very difficult to not let it be a part of your life. Let’s take a detailed look at the health benefits cow milk.Strengthens Bones and TeethPerhaps the most renowned benefit of drinking milk is to maintain your bone health. Entire advertising campaigns have been dedicated to the concept that milk builds strong bones, and it is quite true.
The high content of calcium and other essential minerals for bone density, in addition to complete proteins, are all available in cow milk, which makes it an important dietary consideration for not only your bones but also your teeth. As you age, bone mineral density increases and milk can be a simple solution to keep up your strength.Heart HealthGrass-fed cows tend to have a high content of omega-3 fats in their milk, and while this varies depending on where the animal grazes, and on what, the benefits are still present in most varieties of milk.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the “good” form of cholesterol in the body, which can actually help improve heart health and prevent the onset of cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attacks or strokes.Prevents DiabetesStudies have linked regular milk intake with the regulation of blood sugar levels in the body. With high levels of vitamin B and essential minerals, cow milk helps the metabolism of the body run smoothly, and process food normally, which can regulate glucose and insulin levels.
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels help to prevent or manage diabetes to a large extent.Promotes Weight LossResearch has shown that milk can aid in weight loss for a number of reasons. It can help to cause fullness, and feelings of satiety, due to its high protein content, even though it is contributing a rather low level of calories. Also, due to its metabolic-boosting abilities and protein, it can help provide more energy and prevent one from developing a sedentary lifestyle.
Higher metabolism and more activity lead to weight loss.Inflammatory IssuesMilk has often been recommended as a remedy for everything from gout and arthritis to respiratory distress and burns on the skin. The combination of complete animal proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidant minerals and compounds in milk make it an incredible anti-inflammatory substance. There’s a reason why people drink milk following a spicy meal.
The unique blend of nutrients can soothe the stomach’s inflammation as well, improving the efficiency of digestion and absorption of nutrients.Growth and DevelopmentAs you surely know, protein is an important part of our bodily functions, but there are different types of protein. Cow milk contains “complete” proteins, which means that they are directly useful to our body, both in the production of energy and in the growth and natural development too.
As children, it is very important to drink milk on a regular basis, as research has largely concluded that growth and development, both physically and mentally, can be boosted by this nutritious and natural drink.Boosts ImmunityMilk is about more than calcium and protein; antioxidant compounds like vitamin E, selenium and zinc can also be found in milk and can seek out dangerous free radicals throughout the body that may be causing mutations or chronic illnesses.
Research has already linked the consumption of natural grass-fed cow milk to reduced levels of cancer and a lower incidence of coronary heart disease. It can also improve the appearance and youthfulness of your skin.Word of WarningThere is some debate about the potential side effects of excessive milk consumption. From research on prostate cancer to Parkinson’s disease and CMA (Cow’s Milk Allergy), there are valid claims and research that show cow milk to be dangerous under very specific conditions and consumption levels.
Before making a major boost to your milk intake, speak to your doctor, who may understand more about possible effects of milk on your system. However, for most people, milk is a very wise choice for a daily diet.See Also: Cow Milk Nutrition Facts
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Cow's milk has long been associated with good health, making it one of the most consumed beverages throughout the United States and Europe.Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. All mammals, including humans, will normally produce milk to feed their offspring until they are ready for solid food. It contains valuable nutrients, and it can offer a range of health benefits. Calcium, for example, can prevent osteoporosis.
However, some people are not able to digest lactose, the sugar in milk, after they are weaned, because they do not produce enough of an enzyme known as lactase. Lactase is needed to digest milk properly. As concerns about lactose intolerance and milk allergies widen, a range of substitute milks, such as almond and soy milk, have become available. This article, part of a Medical News Today collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods, will focus mainly on cow's milk.
Health benefits of milk Milk has long been seen as a healthy drink, because it is high in a range of nutrients. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for 2015 to 2020 suggest that Americans should consume "Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages." However, they also recommend consuming fewer than 10 percent of calories each day from saturated fats, citing butter and whole milk as examples of foods high in saturated fat.
Milk and bone health Cow's milk can be a source of calcium, a mineral that is important in the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Milk is good for the bones because it offers a rich source of calcium, a mineral essential for healthy bones and teeth. Cow's milk is fortified with vitamin D, which also benefits bone health. Calcium and vitamin D help prevent osteoporosis. Other ways to improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis include regular physical activity and strength training, avoiding smoking and eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium and high in potassium.
Most of the body's vitamin D is synthesized by the body on exposure to sunlight, so spending time outdoors is also important. Some studies have concluded that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children.12 A seven-year study that tracked the diets and physical activity of adolescent girls, indicated that dairy products and calcium did not prevent stress fractures.13 In spite of this, milk and milk products are still considered beneficial for bone development in children.
Milk and heart health Cow's milk is a source of potassium, which can enhance vasodilation and reduce blood pressure. Increasing potassium intake and decreasing sodium can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study led by Dr. Mark Houston, director of the Hypertension Institute at St. Thomas Hospital in Tennessee.3 The study showed that those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed around 1000 mg per day.
3 According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2 percent of US adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation.3 Potassium-rich foods include cow's milk, oranges, tomatoes, lima beans, spinach, bananas, prunes, and yogurt. A dramatic increase in potassium intake can have risks however, including heart problems, so any changes in diet or use of supplements must be discussed first with a physician.
Cow's milk also contains a high amount of saturated fat and cholesterol, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Milk and cancer Vitamin D might play a role in cell growth regulation and cancer protection. Research shows that there is a higher risk of dying from colorectal cancer in geographic locations that receive the least amount of sunlight. Milk, too, contains vitamin D that can offer similar protection.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that "Research results overall support a relationship between higher intakes of calcium and reduced risks of colorectal cancer." They note, however, that the results of studies have not always been consistent."2 The NCI also points to some studies that suggest an increased intake of calcium and lactose from dairy products may help to prevent ovarian cancer.
2 Milk and depression Adequate vitamin D levels support the production of serotonin, a hormone associated with mood, appetite, and sleep. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with depression, chronic fatigue, and PMS. Cow's milk and other foods are often fortified with vitamin D. Milk and muscle building Cow's milk is designed to help baby cows grow fast, so it makes sense that humans who drink cow's milk can also bulk up quickly.
Cow's milk is a rich source of high-quality protein, containing all of the essential amino acids. Whole milk is also a rich source of energy in the form of saturated fat, which can prevent muscle mass being used for energy. Maintaining a healthy amount of muscle is important for supporting metabolism and contributing to weight loss and weight maintenance. Sufficient dietary protein is needed to preserve or increase lean muscle mass.
Dairy protein can support muscle growth and repair. According to Today's Dietitian, an analysis of over 20 clinical trials suggests that an increased milk intake can boost muscle mass and strength during resistance exercise in both younger and older adults.6 Cow's milk does not seem to significantly help with weight loss. One analysis of studies found that increased consumption of cow's milk in the short-term and without calorie restriction had no benefit for weight loss, with only modest benefits seen in long-term studies with energy restriction.
11 Low-fat milk can provide the benefits of milk while supplying less fat. Milk and osteoarthritis Osteoarthritis of the knee currently has no cure, but researchers say drinking milk every day has been linked to reduced progression of the disease. Their research was published in the American College of Rheumatology Journal Arthritis Care & Research. Nutritional content of milk and milk alternatives Cow's milk and soy milk contains protein, which supports muscle growth and repair.
One cup of milk is considered one serving. The nutritional breakdown of milk depends on the fat content. One cup of whole milk, with 3.25 percent fat contains: 146 calories 8 grams of fat 13 grams of carbohydrates 8 grams of protein One cup of nonfat or skim milk contains: 86 calories 0 grams of fat 12 grams of carbohydrates 8 grams of protein In comparison, one cup of plain soy milk contains: 80-110 calories 3 to 4 grams of fat 6 to 7 grams of carbohydrates 5 to 7 grams of protein One cup of plain almond milk contains: 50 to 60 calories 2.
5 grams of fat 5 to 7 grams of carbohydrates 1 gram of protein Some important nutrients that all milk provides include: Calcium: Dairy products like milk are one of the richest dietary sources of calcium. Calcium has many functions in the body but its primary job is the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is also important for blood clotting and wound healing, maintaining normal blood pressure, and muscle contractions including heartbeat.
It is important to try to pair calcium-rich foods with sources of magnesium and vitamin D, as vitamin D supports calcium absorption in the small intestine and magnesium helps the body incorporate calcium into the bones. A cup of skim milk contains around 306 milligrams of calcium, with around 32 percent of this calcium thought to be absorbed. Non-acidifying plant sources of calcium may be preferable for some people, with the absorption of calcium from kale, broccoli and other vegetables ranging from 40 to 64 percent.
8,9 Choline: Milk is also a rich source of choline; an important nutrient found to support sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and can lessen chronic inflammation.4 Potassium: An optimal intake of potassium is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.
A high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes.3 The recommended daily intake of potassium for all adults is 4,700 mg per day. A cup of cow's milk contains around 366 mg of potassium (slightly more than in most soy milk beverages), although the unpleasant digestive effects of lactose intolerance, such as diarrhea, can lead to potassium depletion. Vitamin D (fortified): Vitamin D is not naturally present in cow's milk, but it may be added alongside other nutrients to fortify cow's milk, soy milk, almond milk, and other types.
Vitamin D is important for bone health. It aids in the formation, growth, and repair of bones. It also plays an important role in calcium absorption and immune function. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with osteoporosis, depression, chronic fatigue, muscle pain, PMS, hypertension, and breast and colon cancer. Milk is also fortified with numerous vitamins, including vitamins A and D. It may also contain small amounts of vitamin B2, or riboflavin, vitamin B12, and around 0.
1 milligrams per cup of vitamin B6. Magnesium and phosphorus may also be present. Some of these vitamins, especially A and riboflavin, are destroyed by exposure to light, so milk stored in transparent containers will have lower nutrient levels. To encourage the consumption of cow's milk, manufacturers have created new products, including flavored varieties like strawberry or chocolate, lactose-free milks, milk with added omega-3s, hormone free or organic milks and reduced fat milk.
However, consumers should remember that some flavored milks can contain high amounts of sugar. It is a good idea to check the labels of foods when looking for healthy options. Concerns and precautions Milk alternatives such as soy milk and almond milk may be recommended for people who have lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is a condition in which a person lacks the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down the sugar found in milk for proper digestion.
Some people, who do not produce enough lactase, cannot tolerate lactose beyond infancy. An estimated 15 percent of people of northern European descent, 80 percent of black and Hispanic people, and more than 90 percent of Asians and First Nations people do not produce lactase. Lactose intolerance can lead to bloating, flatulence or diarrhea when consuming milk and milk products. The negative effects of lactose intolerance on the gastrointestinal system may compromise absorption of nutrients from other foods.
Drinking lactose-free milk, which has added enzymes to help with lactose digestion, or taking a lactase supplement when consuming milk may ease or eliminate these symptoms. Milk allergy or hypersensitivity is different from lactose intolerance. It refers to an abnormal immunologic reaction in which the body's immune system produces an allergic antibody, called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody. A cow's milk allergy can cause symptoms such as wheezing and asthma, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal distress.
Other reactions include eczema, an itchy rash, and rhinitis, or inflammation in the nose. In severe cases, it can lead to bleeding, pneumonia, and even anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal hypersensitivity reaction. Overconsumption of potassium or phosphorus, both of which exist in high levels in milk, can harm those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If the kidneys cannot remove excess potassium or phosphorus from the blood, it could be fatal.
Overconsumption of calcium is rare with food intake alone, but it can cause unwanted side effects such as constipation, kidney stones, or kidney failure. This may be a risk when taking calcium supplements. Excess calcium may also increase the risk of calcium deposition in the arteries, raising the risk of heart disease, especially when magnesium intake is low. The tolerable upper intake level of calcium is 2.
5 grams per day for healthy individuals over the age of 1 year. Milk has also been linked to an increase in the risk of a number of cancers of the reproductive system, including breast cancer and prostate cancer.20-22 The American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend cow's milk for infants under 1 year of age. This is partly because cow's milk is low in iron compared with human breast milk. There is also a risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
15,16 Breastmilk is the best choice of milk for infants under 1 year. Introducing cow's milk too early may predispose them to a lactose allergy in future. This recommendation also stems from evidence that consumption of dairy products in infancy is linked to the development of insulin-dependent (type 1 or childhood-onset) diabetes. According to research among infants who avoid exposure to cow's milk protein in the first 3 months of life, there is a 30 percent lower incidence of type 1 diabetes.
17-19 Cow's milk may also contain residues of hormones and antibiotics, as well as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These substances can have a negative impact on human health, including adverse effects on the nervous system, reproductive system, and immune system. They may potentially raise the risk of certain types of cancer. While calcium and vitamin D from cow's milk can benefit bone health, there is also some evidence that animal proteins in the diet, for example, from cow's milk, have an acidifying effect.
This could have a negative impact on bone health by causing the body to pull calcium from the bones to restore optimal blood pH levels.10 As such, the net benefit of calcium in cow's milk may be much lower than is usually expected. Plant-based sources of calcium, such as green leafy vegetables, are more effectively absorbed and used than calcium derived from cow's milk. Anyone who has an allergy or intolerance to cow's milk, or who is considering avoiding cow's milk for ethical or environmental reasons, can find out more about some of the milk alternatives here.