Cow’s milk is produced by dairy cows. It is available in varying percentages of fat (whole, semi-skimmed, skimmed, etc.), as homogenized or non-homogenized milk, and, in some areas, as a raw, unpasteurized product.

Health considerations

Cow’s milk varies in fat content but is a source of protein, B vitamins, calcium, and potassium. Milk is often fortified with vitamins A and D. Milk has been associated with development of Type I diabetes in genetically at-risk children, though there is no conclusive evidence. Also present, unless treated, is lactose, which can cause distress to sensitive individuals. A 2009 review of published studies found little evidence for dairy intake helping to reduce risk of bone fracture, and found osteoporosis-related fracture rate to be highest in countries consuming the most dairy. Conjugated linoleic acids may be present in milk at varying levels, depending on fat content and the producing cow’s diet. See: Conjugated linoleic acid.

Keep in mind

Cow’s milk is a common source of calcium and vitamin D in the Western diet, if avoiding cow’s milk, alternate sources of these micronutrients should be sought. Milk is a common allergen and a source of numerous food ingredients. Consumers should make an educated decision regarding organic, conventional, or alternative dairy products. Some milk comes from cows treated with growth hormones, though regulations vary. See: rBST.

May be found in

Ice cream, cheese, yogurt, pastries, cakes, cookies, prepared foods, sauces, pasta dishes, chocolate, caramel


The British Journal of Nutrition
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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