It’s Got to be Milk!

December 23, 2013

By Elizabeth Kimani-Murage, Associate Research Scientist, APHRC

Why milk is not just for kids but a must-have component of your daily diet.

Milk and milk products including yogurt and cheese are highly recommended as part of a healthy balanced diet. Contrary to long-held beliefs that dairy products are implicated in reduced cardio-metabolic health, scientific evidence indicates that dairy products are actually associated with an improved cardio-metabolic profile including reduced risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and colorectal cancer. Other health benefits of milk and milk products include improved bone health and reduced risk of osteoporosis (weakening of bones) among other numerous benefits.

What’s so good about Milk?
Milk and milk products contain a wide variety of nutrients that are critical for your health. They are a great source of protein (for your body’s growth and repair), calcium (for healthy bones and teeth), potassium (for bone health, heart health and control of blood pressure), vitamin D (for maintenance of proper levels of calcium and phosphorous), Vitamin A (for good eyesight and immune function) and other numerous nutrients including phosphorous, magnesium, Vitamin B12, zinc, riboflavin, folate, vitamin C and iodine. ( The components in dairy products synergistically work together to provide the nutrition and health benefits associated with dairy products.

What Evidence Exists?
There is now a wealth of evidence from large studies, systematic reviews and meta-analysis that conclude on the importance of milk and milk products on health. These include:

  • Abargouei,2012-
  • Rice et al., 2011-
  • Alvarez-León et al, 2006 –
  • Tong et al., 2011-
  • Murphy 2013 –
  • Weaver 2013-

The protective effect of milk against cardio metabolic and other diseases may be due to potassium, calcium and vitamin D that are found in milk and milk products. For example, some studies have indicated that the mechanism by which milk and milk products reduce the risk of obesity is in part due to calcium which is considered to reduce lipogenesis (formation of fat) and increase lipolysis (breakdown of fat) (Sun and Zemel 2004- Other studies have indicated a satiating effect of dairy protein consumption, leading to less hunger, hence lower food intake; which reduces fat deposition and improves insulin sensitivity (Dunshea et al 2007-


Among other beneficial components and mechanisms, milk fat contains high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), elevated levels of which have been found to lower the risk of cardio-metabolic diseases (Rice et al, 2011- ); and some evidence indicates that whole milk, rather than skimmed milk is the way to go, although some evidence has also recommended low-fat milk.
So how much milk should you take?
In most countries with such recommendations, it is often recommended that one takes two to three servings (a serving of milk is equivalent to a cup of milk) of milk or milk product each day to meet their nutrient requirements.