milk (1) Milk

Do you like milk? If yes, how often do you take it? If no, what are your reasons? Whatever may be the case, this post details some noteworthy facts about milk that you definitely need to know, including some milk benefits and side effects.

Before we proceed, it might interest you to know that the past years have recorded an increasing alert on the importance of maintaining healthy nutritional intake as a way of boosting our overall well being. Furthermore, the urge to optimize healthy well-being is prompting most people to pay what it takes to consume food products that are considered more healthier, tastier and environmentally friendlier than the majority of the food items available out there. One of such healthy food is milk, which represents a high source of protein, vitamins, lipids, calcium, amino acids and other essential minerals.

The health benefits of milk are so phenomenal that research continues to buttress on the overwhelming role milk, dairy foods and other milk related food products continue to play on our health. Among the essential health benefits of milk exposed through scientific research are; maintaining strong teeth, boosting immunity, building strong bones, lowering blood pressure, promoting good health, preventing certain diseases and many more. When considering the affordable, low-cost but yet the amazing health benefits that milk and other dairy products can render to health, then there is no doubt that you will never look back on making this food item an important part of your diet.

It is worthy of note that the daily recommended intake of milk and other milk products is three servings. Besides, there are various ways of ensuring that you are eating a healthy balanced meal as well as consuming the right portion of milk and milk products on a daily basis. The most convenient way is to create a healthy food planner that incorporates all the essential healthy meals and then stick to your planner. This can commence with a healthy breakfast of milk, beverages, cereal, parfait, fruit and vegetables etc but most importantly, always stick to a healthy eating plan for a healthier you. 

cow_udder Cow's Udder

So, What is Milk?

Among the oldest and most popular food in the world is milk. Literally speaking, milk is a natural whitish secretion tapped from a cow’s udder or any mammary glands during or immediately after pregnancy.

The keyword “milk” is also used to refer to the whitish, inanimate beverages that are milky in appearance such as coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk and almond milk. To a larger extent, milk is highly nutritious to everyone especially infants due to the presence of colostrum in early lactation milk that provides them with antibodies from their mothers. Milk is an integral source of nutrition for babies before they are capable of digesting other solid types of food. Apart from the natural forms of milk from the mammary glands, it can also be produced in a laboratory using proteins, water and fatty acids. Almost every mammals feed their infants with milk through breastfeeding. World Health Organization lays much emphasis on the importance of strictly doing an exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months and then combining breastfeeding with other food for at least up to two years. Milk is highly essential for health because of its nutritive contents however, it can cause health issues especially for people that are allergic to it as well as individuals that are lactose intolerant.

Sources of milk

Females of many mammals are the main sources of milk however, cow's milk is the most used one for commercial productions. Human milk is not distributed commercially but for feeding infants. For industrial purposes, cow's milk is mostly produced in large quantities and it is the most popularly consumed form of milk followed by goat milk. The Holstein cattle is the most commonly bred cattle for producing milk on an industrial scale. Automated milking equipment is normally used for producing large quantities of milk for commercial use. 

Types of Milk

There are different types of milk such as; powdered milk, whole milk, lactose free milk, low fat milk, lactose free milk, semi-skimmed milk, fat free milk, organic milk, lactose milk and skimmed milk.

cow-milk Raw Milk Being Pressed From A Cow's Udder

Milk Products


Both goat, cattle and sheep milk can be used for producing milk products such as cheese, yogurt, curd, ice cream, butter, cream and kefir. Milk can also be used to produce milk products such as condensed milk, casein, powdered milk, whey protein, lactose and several others. 

Milk Nutrition

Milk is an excellent source of protein, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, sodium, citrate, lactose (sugar), folates, vitamin B6, potassium, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B12, biotin, vitamin K, riboflavin, fat, phosphate, minerals, water and carbohydrates. Milk derives its sweetness from lactose and this contributes to almost 40% of whole cow's milk's calories.

Milk Proteins

There are various types of proteins in milk but the main type is casein, which is a substance in the stomach that breaks down to produce casomorphin (opioid peptide). Casein is in the form of minute globules known as casein micelles. Milk fat is also present in whole or semi-skimmed milk but not in skimmed milk. Milk proteins are exclusive to milk as they are not present in any other tissues.

Milk proteins especially caseins contain essential amino acid needed for growth and development of infants and for boosting adult’s health. Other forms of milk proteins are immunoglobulin, enzymes, serum albumin, whey proteins (alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin). The common types of milk proteins are a-lactalbumin, caseins, and ß-lactoglobulin, which are only produced by mammals.

Caseins are an excellent source of amino acids and they are easily digestible in the intestine however, whey proteins are quite less digestible in the intestines. It is important to note that the failure of whey protein to fully digest in the intestines can trigger systemic immune response or localized intestinal reactions. This is known as milk protein allergy, which is caused mainly by ß-lactoglobulin.

Benefits of Milk

1. Boosts Infants and Children’s Health
According to World Health Organisation, every infant and child requires good nutrition since malnutrition or under-nutrition contributes to almost 45% of child mortality. Poor nutrition is a huge contributor of obesity, low weight-for-height and overweight in most infants and children. Having mentioned the above, it is important to highlight on the importance of feeding children with healthy food products such as milk. WHO reports that approximately 800 000 number of children could be saved annually through breastfeeding. In a nutshell, milk is highly recommendable for infants and children as a source of nutrients, calcium, minerals, energy and facilitator of good health.

Calcium is highly important for infants and growing children for developing and building healthy bones and teeth. Exclusive breastfeeding i.e feeding babies with only breast milk for at least the first six months of birth is highly recommended by the Department of Health. However, mothers that are not breastfeeding due to stringent reasons can use infant formula that contains the right quantities of balanced nutrients a baby requires. It is important to note that babies below one year old shouldn’t be fed with evaporated milk, dried milk, condensed milk or any other types of milk meant for adult. Ideally, kids between one to two years old should be given whole milk and dairy products because they contain more essential vitamins than low-fat milk. But they can be gradually fed with semi-skimmed and skimmed milk once above two years in as much as they are also given balanced diet that are needed for healthy growth.

2. Impacts of Milk on Type 2 diabetes
Researchers reveal that regular intake of low fat dairy products is essential for reducing the onset of type 2 diabetes. A recent study found out that individuals consuming a high amount of low fat dairy products showed a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. This can be attributed to the fact that dairy products contain low glycaemic index (G.I) that is essential for controlling the blood sugar level.

3. Protection Against Cancer
There are considerable evidences which suggest that increased intake of milk has a protective effect on the onset of both colorectal and breast cancer. A recent study showed that individuals who consume at least 1.5 glasses of milk daily, have reduced risk of cancer attack unlike individuals that consume low amount of milk.

While some studies report that higher consumption of calcium reduces and prevents the risks of colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer, others have some contradictory opinions. Some other studies reveal that children who continue to drink milk until adulthood have reduced exposure to the onset of breast cancer. Moreover, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and calcium helps to protect the body against colon cancer.

4. Recommended for pregnant Women
Milk is a rich source of calcium, which is highly essential for pregnant women as it helps the bones of the developing foetus to form very well. However, it is worthy to note that certain milk products such as cheese or raw unpasteurised milk should be avoided by pregnant women as these can potentially harm the unborn baby or cause illnesses.

5. Muscles Building
Milk is a rich source of protein with essential amino acids that promote muscle growth and repair. Moreover, whole milk contains energy in the form of saturated fat that prevents muscle mass from being used up for energy. In a nutshell, increased milk intake helps to boost muscle mass, maintains healthy muscle and supports metabolism.

6. Promotes Good Health
NHS England reports that milk and other dairy products like cream, cheese and yoghurt are rich sources of calcium and protein, which are needed for our bodies to function properly. While protein is required for proper growth and repair of the body tissues, calcium is highly important for keeping the teeth and bones strong.

Calcium found in dairy food products are essentially healthy for us because our body tissues tend to absorb it so easily. But it is worth knowing that milk and dairy products contain high quantity of saturated fat, which can lead to excessive energy intakes and subsequently overweight if consumed a lot. Consuming saturated fat rich diets is also a leading cause of high levels of cholesterol in the blood, which can possibly lead to stroke or heart attack.

7. Impacts of Milk on Blood Pressure
Quite a large number of researchers agree that consuming at least three portions of dairy products, low salt and at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis is vital for reducing high blood pressure in both children and adults. This is believed to be attributive to the presence of protein, calcium, magnesium and potassium in milk and dairy products. Moreover, high calcium consumption increases low levels of good cholesterol while reducing high levels of bad cholesterol that are all associated with causing cardiovascular diseases.

8. Maintains Strong Bone
Milk and dairy products are an excellent source of magnesium, calcium, protein, vitamin D, vitamin C, strontium, vitamin K and phosphorous, which are vital for developing and maintaining healthy bones. Adequate intake of milk and dairy products from childhood to adulthood is essential for preventing and protecting the bones against osteoporosis.

9. Maintenance of Strong Teeth
Consuming a balanced amount of milk and dairy products supply the body with phosphorous and calcium, which are essential for developing and maintaining healthy teeth. Casein as an essential constituent of milk protein helps to prevent the loss of phosphorus and calcium as well as protects the enamel surface of the teeth. Researchers reveal that drinking milk in-between meals is an healthy eating plan as this helps to prevent tooth decay.

10. Impacts of Milk on Depression
Vitamin D is very essential for producing serotonin, which is a hormone that is associated with sleep, appetite and mood. Milk and milk products are an excellent source of vitamin D thus highly essential to include them in one’s diet as vitamin D deficiency can lead to depression, PMS and fatigue.

11. Impacts of Milk on Cardiovascular Disease
Researchers reveal that milk and dairy products intake is highly important for minimizing the risks of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks. A recent study carried out showed that elderly people who consume more milk have reduced chances of developing cardiovascular diseases unlike individuals who include little or no milk in their diets.

This claim can be attributed to the higher consumption of calcium, which is associated with a reduced chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. Increase in the intake of potassium while lowering that of sodium is vital for minimizing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. But on the other hand, it has been reported that cow’s milk contains a high quantity of cholesterol and saturated fat, which could possibly expose an individual to dangers of heart disease.

12. Milk Keeps the Body Hydrated
Milk is a good source of fluid thus consuming it helps to keep the body hydrated. Dehydration can lead to poor concentration, irritability and sickness. Since milk contains essential nutrients, we should endeavor to rehydrate our bodies with it regularly in other to replace lost fluids especially after exercises.

Pasteurization of Milk

In the year 1864, a French scientist known as Louis Pasteur invented the process of pasteurization, which involves heating beverages such as milk, wine and beer so as to kill any bacteria that could possibly cause spoilage. Pasteurization reduces the amount of dangerous microorganisms in the milk by up to 99.9% thereby making it safe for consumption. Milk pasteurization treatment helps to prevent food poisoning. Unpasteurised milk is referred to as raw milk and it usually carries a warning sign especially in the developed world to indicate that the milk may possibly contain harmful bacteria. Despite the importance of pasteurizing milk, studies reveal that the process can lead to loss of essential minerals and vitamins.

Side Effects of Milk

Regardless the amazing health benefits of milk and milk products, studies reveal that they have some negative effects on health. 
1. Lactose Intolerance

Most individuals are allergic to milk thus find it difficult to digest lactose, which can lead to lactose intolerance. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include; watery stool, abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and gas.

2. Microbial Contamination of Milk
This is the most common concern of the overall safety of milk. Milk usually contains pathogens and bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Shiga-toxin, Salmonella species and Campylobacter jejuni, which naturally exist in the environment where cows can be exposed to. Besides, mastitis which is an infection of the cow’s udders tend to spread pathogens while milking the cows.

3. Effects of Milk Products on Pregnant Women
Pregnant women are recommended to avoid both pasteurised and unpasteurised soft blue cheeses such as camembert and brie etc as they contain listeria bacteria that causes stillbirth, miscarriage or serious illness in infants. However, cheddar, mozzarella, feta, parmesan and cottage cheeses are preferably safer to consume during pregnancy.

4. IgE-mediated milk allergy
IgE-mediated milk allergy is a common type of milk allergy, which causes reactions that often occur immediately after consuming cow's' milk. Symptoms include swollen lips, rashes or hives, breathlessness, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, anaphylaxis and vomiting.

5. Non-IgE-mediated milk allergy
Non-IgE-mediated milk allergy is a type of milk allergy previously known as cow milk protein intolerance. This type of allergy is most common in babies and young children whereby they tend to experience the symptoms during their first time of consuming cow milk. Symptoms are rashes, eczema, diarrhoea, difficulty in breathing, vomiting and stomach cramps.

6. Worsening of Certain Disease Conditions
Studies reveal that high milk intake can lead to worsening condition of the Crohn's disease, Behçet's disease and Hirschsprung's disease. Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines especially the ileum and colon. According to NHS England, Behçet's disease is a disease condition in which the tissues and blood vessels may become swollen or inflamed. Hirschsprung's disease is a rare but treatable disorder of babies bowel whereby a section of their bowel becomes permanently narrowed, squeezed in and unable to relax. This causes the stools to get stuck in that part of the bowel thereby building up to cause a blockage.

7. Fecal Contamination of Milk
During the milking process, milk can be contaminated with faeces that contain high levels of pathogenic microbes such as Escherichia coli. To prevent this, adequate sanitary conditions should be maintained in other to prevent health-related problems.

Having read through this post, it will be highly appreciated if you leave your opinion or ask related questions in the comment section. Every opinion counts!!!

This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.


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