Last updated on: 7/25/2022 | Author: ProCon.org

Should Humans Consume Dairy Milk?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica offered the following definition of “milk”:

“liquid secreted by the mammary glands of female mammals to nourish their young for a period beginning immediately after birth. The milk of domesticated animals is also an important food source for humans, either as a fresh fluid or processed into a number of dairy products such as butter and cheese.”

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Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Milk,” britannica.com, May 1, 2022

PRO (yes)

Pro

Julie Upton, registered dietitian, stated:

“Enjoying a cup or two of milk every day is one of the best ways to get readily available calcium and vitamin D into your diet to help you build and maintain strong bones. However, the benefits of drinking milk extend well beyond your bones and teeth. This is because cow’s milk is chock full of 13 essential nutrients, including vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A, zinc, and selenium….

Not only is milk a nutritional powerhouse, but it also has myriad health benefits from improving bone health to helping to maintain a healthy heart, may enhance your athletic performance, and can even help reduce the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes….

Incorporating one to two servings of milk to your meals and snacks is a wonderful way to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Since milk is affordable and versatile, you’ll never get tired of adding healthful milk to your diet.”

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Julie Upton, “4 Surprising Effects of Drinking Milk, Say Dietitians,” eatthis.com, June 15, 2022

Pro

Jessica Ball, Associate Nutrition Editor of EatingWell, stated:

“Milk (and dairy in general) gets the blame for a lot of unwanted health outcomes. We’re sure you’ve heard that dairy causes acne, increases inflammation and can even be the reason you’re not losing weight. Spoiler: For those who aren’t lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy, research doesn’t back up those claims. In fact, there are actually some impressive benefits that come with drinking a nutritious glass of milk….

If you aren’t lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy, it’s totally OK to enjoy a regular glass of milk each day. From improving bone health to helping mitigate cognitive decline, drinking milk and incorporating other dairy items into your diet can come with some health benefits. As with any food, remember that moderation is key (an 8-ounce serving of milk probably wouldn’t completely fill many of the glasses in your cupboard). Since there are dairy farmers all across the U.S., try choosing milk that is produced locally. Making a connection with a local farmer can help you get a better-quality product that takes less of a toll on the environment, too.”

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Jessica Ball, “What Happens to Your Body If You Drink Milk Every Day,” eatingwell.com, Apr. 28, 2022

Pro

Debbie Petitpain, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, stated:

“Milk and dairy foods tend to be affordable and accessible food choices for meeting some nutrients of public health concerns, meaning nutrients we tend to not get enough of—specifically calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.”

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Stephanie Brown,” USDA Recommends 3 Cups of Dairy Per Day. Is It Too Much?,” verywellhealth.com, Nov. 12, 2021

Pro

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated:

“Healthy dietary patterns feature dairy, including fat-free and low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt, and cheese. Individuals who are lactose intolerant can choose low-lactose and lactose-free dairy products. For individuals who choose dairy alternatives, fortified soy beverages (commonly known as “soy milk”) and soy yogurt—which are fortified with calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D—are included as part of the dairy group because they are similar to milk and yogurt based on nutrient composition and in their use in meals….

Most individuals would benefit by increasing intake of dairy in fat-free or low-fat forms, whether from milk (including lactose-free milk), yogurt, and cheese, or from fortified soy beverages or soy yogurt. Strategies to increase dairy intake include drinking fat-free or low-fat milk or a fortified soy beverage with meals or incorporating unsweetened fat-free or low-fat yogurt into breakfast or snacks. “

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US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services, “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025,” dietaryguidelines.gov, Dec. 2020

Pro

Melissa Majumdar, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, stated:

“Drinking milk is a great way to meet needs for nine essential nutrients, including: phosphorus, B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin, niacin, and protein. Most non-dairy milks contain only 2-4 nutrients and generally lack protein; they may also have added sugars if sweetened. Milk, on the other hand, has a natural balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat (in low fat milks).”

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Emily Shiffer, “The Surprising Health Benefits of Milk,” oprahmag.com, June 5, 2019

Pro

Katherine Zeratsky, registered dietitian nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic, stated:

“Cow’s milk (dairy) and other plant-based beverages, including soy milk and almond milk, all can be healthy choices. However, there are wide nutritional differences, depending on the type of product and the brand…

Comparing protein content, dairy milk takes the protein title with a little over 8 grams per cup…

When considering calcium, dairy milk naturally has about 300 milligrams per cup, and dairy products generally are considered the best absorbed source of calcium…

In summary, it’s tough to beat dairy milk for balanced nutrition — with nonfat skim milk the best choice for most adults.”

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Liza Torborg, “Mayo Clinic Q and A: Dairy Milk, Soy Milk, Almond Milk — Which Is the Healthiest Choice for You?,” newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org, Apr. 9, 2019

Pro

Megan Ware, Founder of Nutrition Awareness, stated:

“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…

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…

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…

Osteoarthritis of the knee currently has no cure, but researchers say drinking milk every day has been linked to reduced progression of the disease…

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.”

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Megan Ware, “All about Milk,” Medical News Today, Dec. 14, 2017

Pro

The National Dairy Council (NDC) stated:

“Your body needs certain nutrients to function properly, and milk contains many of those nutrients. For example, milk is an excellent source of calcium, which can help build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It also contains a number of B vitamins (vitamin B 12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin), which can help your body convert food into fuel.”

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The National Dairy Council, “Is Milk Good for You?,” usdairy.com, Jan. 9, 2017

Pro

Tanja Kongerslev Thorning, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, et al., stated:

“The most recent evidence suggested that intake of milk and dairy products was associated with reduced risk of childhood obesity. In adults, intake of dairy products was shown to improve body composition and facilitate weight loss during energy restriction. In addition, intake of milk and dairy products was associated with a neutral or reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly stroke. Furthermore, the evidence suggested a beneficial effect of milk and dairy intake on bone mineral density but no association with risk of bone fracture. Among cancers, milk and dairy intake was inversely associated with [protective against] colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, gastric cancer, and breast cancer, and not associated with risk of pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, or lung cancer, while the evidence for prostate cancer risk was inconsistent. Finally, consumption of milk and dairy products was not associated with all-cause mortality.”

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Tanja Kongerslev Thorning, et al., “Milk and Dairy Products: Good or Bad for Human Health? An Assessment of the Totality of Scientific Evidence,” Journal of Food and Nutrition, ncbi.nlm.gov, Nov. 22, 2016

Pro

The Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group, a cross-party interest group of UK MPs (Members of Parliament), wrote:

“Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are naturally nutrient rich foods. Milk, hard cheese and yogurt are the number one source of calcium in the UK diet. They also contain a wealth of other key nutrients such as protein, riboflavin, vitamin B12, iodine, phosphorus and potassium, all of which play an essential role in a healthy diet.

Calcium and other bone friendly nutrients found in milk and dairy are important in developing bone. This is particularly important in childhood and adolescent children as these are critical periods for bone growth and skeletal development…

The dairy food group is also an excellent source of iodine, an important mineral needed to form hormones in the thyroid. These hormones are necessary for a number of body processes, including metabolism regulation and proper foetal brain development.”

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Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group, “Putting Dairy Back on the Daily Menu,” dairyuk.org, Mar. 2016

CON (no)

Con

Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian on our medical expert board and founder of Real Nutrition, stated:

“Adults do not need milk,. Milk is not an essential ingredient in adult diets and these days there are many substitutes that are fortified with calcium and other vitamins you may have regularly gotten from milk.”

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Jordan Summers-Marcouillier, “Surprising Side Effects of Giving Up Milk, Says Dietitian,” eatthis.com, May 10, 2022

Con

Viva!, a UK vegan charity, stated:

“Drinking milk is the most natural thing in the world – if you’re a baby and you’re suckling from your mum, that is. Like all 5,000 or so species of mammals on this planet, we have evolved to drink the milk of our mothers until weaned. But we are the only mammal to drink milk after weaning and certainly the only one to drink the milk of another species! If this sounds strange, think how you’d feel if your friend told you that they suckle from their pet dog or cat. Or even directly from a cow….

Drinking milk is unnatural for us. Many humans find milk hard to digest, suffering from discomfort and pain. Despite relentless claims by the dairy industry, milk is neither the only nor the best source of calcium and can even increase your risk of bone fracture. Beans, lentils, broccoli, kale, watercress, nuts, seeds, soya and other plant foods are better and healthier sources.”

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Viva!, “Is Dairy Healthy and Do Humans Need it?,” viva.org.uk (accessed July 22, 2022)

Con

The Human League stated:

“The dairy industry has long peddled the idea that milk is completely healthy, and even that it’s a critical part of a balanced diet. But the charming milk mustaches of viral advertising campaigns conceal darker truths. Milk has been linked to increased risks of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and other serious conditions. And the way cow’s milk is produced, along with its environmental costs, has long been hidden by an industry intent on generating profits at any cost….

Exploring the ever-expanding realm of dairy alternatives is a great way to reduce the suffering of cows on factory farms as well as reduce carbon emissions. Cutting down or eliminating dairy products from your diet no longer needs to be a sacrifice, thanks to products like plant-based cheeses, yogurts, ice creams, butter, and coffee creamers.”

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The Human League, “Cow Milk Alternatives, and Why You Should Stop Drinking Milk,” thehumanleague.org, Feb. 11, 2021

Con

Million Dollar Vegan stated:

“There are so many reasons to avoid dairy. It has a detrimental impact on animals and the planet, and there are many ways in which it has a detrimental impact on people, too. If you suffer from digestive upsets, stomach aches, or acne, dairy could be the culprit, and it is associated with far worse conditions, too.

Cows’ milk is made by cows for their calves in the same way that human milk is made by people for their babies. No other animal continues to drink even their own species’ milk after weaning, and yet here we are drinking the milk of cows into adulthood. And why do we think consuming cows’ milk is natural, when we would not consider drinking the milk of cats, racoons [sic] or whales? This peculiar and exclusively human habit brings with it a host of unpleasant consequences.”

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Million Dollar Vegan, “Is Cows’ Milk Bad for You & Should Humans Drink Milk?,” milliondollarvegan.com, Dec. 21, 2021

Con

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit health organization, stated:

“Milk and other dairy products are the top sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet. Milk products also contain cholesterol. Diets high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease, which remains America’s top killer…

Research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bone health… In one study, researchers tracked the diets, exercise, and stress fracture rates of adolescent girls and concluded that dairy products and calcium do not prevent stress fractures.”

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Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Health Concerns about Dairy,” pcrm.org (accessed Jan. 31, 2020):

Con

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) stated:

“Thanks to the dairy industry’s massive PR machine, cow’s milk has long been touted as the go-to source for calcium. But look past the spin and it’s easy to see that milk does a body bad…

Despite the hype, cow’s milk actually robs our bones of calcium. Animal proteins produce acid when they’re broken down, and calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer…

The lactose in cow’s milk can be difficult for people to digest, resulting in nausea, cramps, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Difficulty with dairy digestion can develop later in life and result in progressively worsening symptoms.”

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “12 Reasons to Stop Drinking Cow’s Milk,” peta.org, Jan. 6, 2020

Con

Deepa Verma, founder of Synergistiq Integrative Health, stated:

“Cow’s milk is not designed for human consumption… Cow’s milk contains on average about three times the amount of protein than human milk does, which creates metabolic disturbances in humans that have detrimental bone health consequence…

Milk and dairy products are pro-inflammatory and mucus producing. Milk increases the risks of respiratory conditions and allergies. It has been linked to the development of arthritis due to joints becoming inflamed…

America has one of the highest consumption of dairy, yet one of the highest rates of osteoporosis. Excess calcium needs to excreted and the kidneys bear the load, which in turn contributes to the formation of kidney stones, which have a calcium composition…

A glass of milk also contains acidic animal protein that leeches calcium from the bones, pus cells, feces components, bovine growth hormone, antibiotics, and a whole lot of unnecessary fat, cholesterol and calories — all of which create a terrible imbalance in the body.”

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Deepa Verma, “The Fallacy of ‘Milk Does the Body Good,'” Synergistiq Integrative Health website, Aug. 22, 2016

Con

Michael Greger, physician and founder of the Nutrition Facts website, stated:

“Foods of animal origin in general naturally contain hormones, but cow’s milk may be of particular concern. The hormones naturally found even in organic cow’s milk may have played a role in studies that found a relationship between dairy products and human illnesses, such as acne, certain cancers, and male reproductive disorders. Milk consumption has also been associated with an increased risk of early puberty in girls and endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women.”

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Michael Greger, “Should Pregnant Women Avoid Cow’s Milk?,” Nutrition Facts website, Sep. 15, 2016

Con

Robert M. Kradjian, Former Chief of General Surgery at Seton Medical Center, stated:

“I reviewed over 500 of the 1,500 [scientific] articles [on milk]… None of the authors spoke of cow’s milk as an excellent food, free of side effects and the ‘perfect food’ as we have been led to believe by the industry. The main focus of the published reports seems to be on intestinal colic, intestinal irritation, intestinal bleeding, anemia, allergic reactions in infants and children as well as infections such as salmonella… In adults the problems seemed centered more around heart disease and arthritis, allergy, sinusitis, and the more serious questions of leukemia, lymphoma and cancer…

Any lactating mammal excretes toxins through her milk. This includes antibiotics, pesticides, chemicals and hormones… To get to the point, is milk pure or is it a chemical, biological, and bacterial cocktail?… 38% of milk samples in 10 cities were contaminated with sulfa drugs or other antibiotics. (This from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest and The Wall Street Journal…) A similar study in Washington, DC found a 20 percent contamination rate…

[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.”

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Robert M. Kradjian, “The Milk Letter: A Message To My Patients,” AFPA Fitness website (accessed Sep. 19, 2018):

Con

Susan Tomassini, nutritionist at the Clever Kitchen, stated:

“Most dairy cattle are injected with a cocktail of hormones to artificially increase milk production. One of these, IGF 1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), stimulates the rapid growth of calves (and humans) by boosting the division and multiplication of all cells – including abnormal ones. Perhaps not surprising that many studies have found a link between IGF 1 and various cancers… And there’s more…

• Prostate cancer: Some evidence suggests that the consumption of milk and other dairy products leads to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Conversely, dairy-free diets may slow the progress of prostate cancer.

• Acne: Multiple studies have linked all types of cow’s milk to an increased prevalence of acne in both boys and girls…

• Bone loss: Instead of promoting bone health, animal protein in dairy products can have a calcium-leaching effect. Dairy products almost certainly help cause, not prevent, osteoporosis.”

Nov. 30, 2016 -

Susan Tomassini, “Keeping Monaco Healthy with Susan Tomassini: Don’t Drink Your Milk!,” HelloMonaco website, Nov. 30, 2016