Milk Pros and Cons
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Last updated on: 8/25/2011 9:54:47 AM PST

Is Drinking Milk Healthy for Humans?

PRO (yes) CON (no)
The National Dairy Council stated the following in its fact sheet "Milk's Unique Nutrient Package," available at www.nationaldairycouncil.org (accessed Jan. 16, 2009):

"Milk contains nine essential nutrients, making it one of the most nutrient-rich beverages you can enjoy. Just one 8-ounce serving of milk puts you well on your way to meeting the Daily Value (recommended intake for those on a 2,000 calorie diet) for calcium, riboflavin and other key nutrients...

The protein in milk is high quality, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids or 'building blocks' of protein. Protein builds and repairs muscle tissue, and serves as a source of energy during high-powered endurance exercise. An 8-ounce glass of milk provides about 16% of the Daily Value for protein...

Vitamin B12 helps build red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to working muscles. Just one 8-ounce glass of milk provides about 13% of the Daily Value for this vitamin."


Jan. 16, 2009 - National Dairy Council (NDC) 

Dale E. Bauman, PhD, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University, stated the following in his Dec. 2004 article "Modifying Milk Fat Composition of Dairy Cows to Enhance Fatty Acids Beneficial to Human Health," published in Lipids:
"Milk and dairy products are recognized as an important source of nutrition in human diets, providing energy, high quality protein, and essential minerals and vitamins."

Dec. 2004 - Dale E. Bauman, PhD 

H. Douglas Goff, PhD, Professor of Food Science at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, stated the following in his article "Dairy Chemistry and Physics," available at www.foodsci.uoguelph.ca (accessed Jan. 16, 2009):
"The role of milk in nature is to nourish and provide immunological protection for the mammalian young. Milk has been a food source for humans since prehistoric times; from human, goat, buffalo, sheep, yak, to the focus of this section - domesticated cow milk (genus Bos). Milk and honey are the only articles of diet whose sole function in nature is food. It is not surprising, therefore, that the nutritional value of milk is high."

Jan. 16, 2009 - H. Douglas Goff, PhD 

Frank R. Greer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine, stated the following in the Jan. 9, 2007 article "Proposed New FDA Health Claim Recognizes Role of Key Nutrients in Dairy in Reducing The Risk of Osteoporosis," published at www.midwestdairy.com:
"Milk is one of the richest dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D, critical for building strong bones in kids and teens, and providing the best defense against developing osteoporosis later in life. While calcium supplements and non-dairy foods such as calcium-fortified beverages are an alternative, these products do not offer milk's unique nutrient package."

Jan. 9, 2007 - Frank R. Greer, MD 

Robert Heaney, MD, John A. Creighton University Professor in the Department of Medicine at Creighton University, stated the following in his Apr. 19 2000 article "Calcium, Dairy Products, and Osteoporosis," published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition:
"It is long established and well understood that milk supports growth; thus, it is evident that milk and milk products are good sources of the nutrients needed for bone development and maintenance... Milk products are richer sources of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc and protein, per unit energy, than the average of other typical foods in an adult diet. As a consequence, a diet devoid of dairy products will often be a poor diet, not just in respect to calcium, but for many other nutrients as well."

Apr. 19, 2000 - Robert Heaney, MD 

Heidi Kalkwarf, PhD, RD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, stated the following in her Jan. 2003 article "Milk Intake During Childhood and Adolescence, Adult Bone Density, and Osteoporotic Fractures in U.S. Women," published in the American Journal of the College of Nutrition:
"We found that milk intake in childhood and adolescence is associated with increased bone mass and density in adulthood... These findings support efforts to promote a diet containing one or more servings of milk/d [milk per day] for girls during childhood and adolescence to increase bone mass and density in adulthood and reduce the risk of osteoporotic fracture."

Jan. 2003 - Heidi Kalkwarf, PhD, RD 

Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, Director of Nutrition at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), stated the following in her June 1, 2001 article "What's the Story? The Role of Milk in Your Diet," published at www.acsh.org:
"Milk is a nutritious food. It is an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin D and a good source of protein, vitamin A, potassium, and several B vitamins. Milk and foods made from milk (yogurt and cheese) make up one of the five basic food groups included in the U.S. government's Food Guide Pyramid. The Pyramid calls for two to three servings from this group daily."

June 1, 2001 - Ruth Kava, PhD, RD 

William Sears, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, stated the following in his 2006 article "Milk," available at www.AskDrSears.com:
"Milk is one-stop shopping for nutrition. It contains nearly all the basic nutrients that a growing child needs: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals (except iron). While it is true that most of the nutrients in milk can be gotten easily from other sources, such as vegetables, legumes, and seafood, milk puts them all together in a convenient package."

2006 - William Sears, MD 

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) stated the following in a Sep. 27, 2007 e-mail to ProCon.org:
"Milk contains a complete nutrient package of nine essential nutrients. In addition to being an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, it is a good source of vitamin A, protein and potassium. Dairy is doctor recommended. Dairy's role in a healthy diet has long been established by the nutrition and science community. This includes the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association's Council of Scientific Affairs and many other leading health organizations."

Sep. 27, 2007 - International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated the following in its article "Inside the Pyramid: Milk - Health Benefits and Nutrients," available at www.usda.gov (accessed Mar. 19, 2007):
"Consuming milk and milk products provides health benefits—people who have a diet rich in milk and milk products can reduce the risk of low bone mass throughout the life cycle. Foods in the milk group provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein."

Mar. 19, 2007 - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 

The Organic Center, an organization promoting organic farming, stated the following in its June 2004 article "Health Benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid [CLA]," available at www.organic-center.org:
"Milk, most dairy products, beef, lamb, and pork are the major dietary sources of CLA [conjugated lenoleic acid]. The 'magical properties' of CLA include reducing the propensity to store fat (especially abdominal fat), inhibiting tumor development, promoting sensitivity to insulin in cells, increasing immune response against viral antigens, and modulating inflammatory processes... Milk from dairy cows on organic farms, particularly pasture-based operations, contains significantly higher CLA levels."

June 2004 - The Organic Center 

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) made the following statement in their "Health Concerns About Dairy Products," available at www.pcrm.org (accessed Jan. 16, 2009):
"Milk’s main selling point is calcium, and milk-drinking is touted for building strong bones in children and preventing osteoporosis in older persons. However, clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones...

Dairy products—including cheese, ice cream, milk, butter, and yogurt—contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat to the diet...

Prostate and breast cancers have been linked to consumption of dairy products, presumably related to increases in a compound called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I)...

Milk proteins, milk sugar, fat, and saturated fat in dairy products pose health risks for children and encourage the development of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease...

Milk and dairy products are not necessary in the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to health."

Jan. 16, 2009 - Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) 

Robert M. Kradjian, MD, Former Chief of General Surgery at Seton Medical Center, stated the following in his article "The Milk Letter: A Message To My Patients," available at www.afpafitness (accessed Jan. 30, 2008):
"[D]on’t drink milk for health. I am convinced on the weight of the scientific evidence that it does not 'do a body good.' Inclusion of milk will only reduce your diet’s nutritional value and safety. Most of the people on this planet live very healthfully without cows’ milk. You can too."

Jan. 30, 2008 - Robert M. Kradjian, MD 

Frank A. Oski, MD, Former Director of the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, stated the following in his 1996 book Don't Drink Your Milk:

"The fact is: the drinking of cow milk has been linked to iron-deficiency anemia in infants and children; it has been named as the cause of cramps and diarrhea in much of the world's population, and the cause of multiple forms of allergy as well; and the possibility has been raised that it may play a central role in the origins of atherosclerosis and heart attacks...

In no mammalian species, except for the human (and the domestic cat), is milk consumption continued after the weaning period [the period of breast-feeding]. Calves thrive on cow milk. Cow milk is for calves.

In many other parts of the world, most particularly in East Asia, Africa, and South America, people regard cow milk as unfit for consumption by adult human beings."


1996 - Frank A. Oski, MD 

Benjamin Spock, MD, pediatrician and author, stated the following in his Spring-Summer 1998 article "Good Nutrition for Kids," published in Good Medicine magazine:

"Cow's milk has become a point of controversy among doctors and nutritionists. There was a time when it was considered very desirable, but research has forced us to rethink this recommendation... Dairy products contribute to a surprising number of health problems. They can impair a child's ability to absorb iron and in very small children can even cause subtle blood loss from the digestive tract. Combined with the fact that milk has virtually no iron of its own, the result is an increased risk of iron deficiency...

Cow's milk proteins are a common cause of colic, and now the American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that there is evidence that cow's milk may well contribute to childhood-onset diabetes. Some children have sensitivities to milk proteins that show up as respiratory problems, chronic ear problems, or skin conditions."


Spring-Summer 1998 - Benjamin Spock, MD 

Joseph Mercola, DO, Osteopathic Physician, stated the following in his article "Don't Drink Your Milk!," available at www.mercola.com (accessed Sep. 18, 2007):
"Milk and refined sugar make two of the largest contributions to food induced ill health in our country... It is my strong recommendation that you discontinue your milk products."

Sep. 18, 2007 - Joseph Mercola, DO 

Linda Folden Palmer, DC, chiropractor and author, stated the following in her 2007 book Baby Matters: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Caring for Your Baby:
"Cow's milk is a foreign substance that has pervaded every corner of our diets... Today there is little doubt that early and frequent feeding of dairy products leads to greatly increased incidence of childhood diabetes. It has been confirmed that high cow's milk consumption is a major cause of osteoporosis."

2007 - Linda Folden Palmer, DC 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) made the following statement on the homepage of their website, www.milksucks.com (accessed Mar. 13, 2007):
"Dairy products are a health hazard. They contain no fiber or complex carbohydrates and are laden with saturated fat and cholesterol. They are contaminated with cow's blood and pus and are frequently contaminated with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Dairy products are linked to allergies, constipation, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases."

Mar. 13, 2007 - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) 

Margaret Moss, MA, Director of the Nutrition and Allergy Clinic in Greater Manchester, UK, stated the following in her article "How to Get Your Nutrients on a Milk-Free Diet," available at www.godairyfree.org (accessed Sep. 17, 2007):
"Milk is a complex mixture of substances, some desirable, and others most definitely not. Avoiding milk is a health benefit, not a hazard, so long as you have a modest amount of calcium from a good quality supplement."

Sep. 17, 2007 - Margaret Moss, MA 

Neal Barnard, MD, President of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, offerd the following in his article "Dr. Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes: Frequently Asked Questions About Nutrition," available on the website of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (accessed May 31, 2007):
"Milk contains fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and diets high in fat and saturated fat can increase the risk of several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease...

Organic milk may not contain the pesticides and antibiotics that non-organic milk contains, but still can be loaded with fat and cholesterol. Even organic cow’s milk, which does not contain artificial hormones, does contain naturally occurring hormones. The combination of nutrients found in both organic and non-organic cow’s milk increases our own production of some types of hormones. These hormones have been shown to increase the risk of some forms of cancer. Soymilk and other non-dairy beverages, such as rice and nut milks, are healthy alternatives to cow’s milk."

May. 31, 2007 - Neal Barnard, MD 

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