How much milk can you drink? (1 crucial consideration)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “how much milk can you drink?’. We will look at the impact of consuming milk in moderation and excess. We will delve and elaborate on how much of the milk can and should a person drink.

How much milk can you drink?

In the United-States, the national dietary guidelines recommend that adults should drink three cups or 732 mL/d of milk. Such levels of consumption are, however, rarely observed.(1)

Milk consumption is quite variable across countries and continents, which is a common argument in favor of or against its consumption because these differences are frequently associated with different disease prevalence or risk.

Milk and protein dairy products have been widely recognized as calcium sources. On average, milk supplies 1200mg of calcium/L, which means that 1 cup of 250mL supplies 300mg; this amount represents 25% of the daily recommended intake of calcium. 

Thus, it may seem common sense that dietary guidelines advise one to three cups of milk or equivalent daily. (2)

The vast majority of published studies indicate that dairy consumption does not increase cardiovascular risk or the incidence of some cancers. 

Even though the available evidence is not conclusive, some studies suggest that milk and its derivatives might actually be beneficial to some population segments. (3)

Why must you drink milk daily?

Milk boasts numerous health benefits due to its composition. As a protein-packed and calcium-rich beverage, it plays a crucial role in preventing osteoporosis and maintaining muscle mass. 

Additionally, it serves as a valuable source of several essential elements, including riboflavin, phosphorus, vitamins A and B12, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

Regular consumption of whole cow’s milk, which retains its original fat content, offers several advantages for overall well-being; it has high calcium content, coupled with the presence of vitamin D, aids in safeguarding against osteoporosis.

With its abundant protein content, milk contributes to the development and maintenance of muscle mass, milk contains oligosaccharides, which serve as nutrients for beneficial bacteria in the colon, thereby enhancing the health of the intestinal microbiota.

The substantial presence of vitamin B complex in milk supports optimal functioning of the neurological system. The amino acids in whole milk possess anti-hypertensive properties, offering potential assistance in regulating high blood pressure.

Moreover, whole milk retains the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, K, and D naturally present in milk fat. In contrast, skim milk lacks these essential nutrients due to its fat-free nature.(2, 4)

Are all types of milks equally good for health?

The health benefits of different types of milk vary, and milk fat content has been a topic of extensive discussion. 

While there is no conclusive evidence regarding the detrimental effects of saturated fat on cardiovascular health, consumer demand for low-fat and lower-calorie options, along with minimal risk considerations, has prompted the dairy industry to develop milk versions with reduced fat content.

Milk fat content can range from 0.2% to 3.5%. As an intermediate option, semi-skimmed milk contains approximately 1.6% fat. These variations in fat content cater to the preferences and dietary needs of individuals seeking different milk options.(2)

Several factors play a significant role in influencing the quality of milk. One crucial aspect is the milk-fat composition, which can be influenced by the nutrition provided to dairy cows and potentially through selective breeding practices. 

When it comes to milk-fat percentage, approximately half of the observed variation among cows is attributed to genetic differences. These factors collectively contribute to the diversity and characteristics of milk across different sources. (5)

The concentration and composition of milk fat are subject to dietary influences. When cows are fed diets rich in easily fermentable carbohydrates (such as starch) and unsaturated fats, the concentration of milk fat tends to decrease. 

On the other hand, incorporating rumen-inert fats into the diet can increase the percentage of fat in milk. It’s important to note that unlike non-ruminant animals, dietary fats have minimal impact on the composition of milk fat in ruminants. 

However, even subtle variations in composition and manufacturing characteristics can arise from the consumption of different types of fats. These dietary factors play a crucial role in shaping the properties and characteristics of milk fat.(6) 

Various processing operations, including thermal treatment, chemical treatment, biochemical processing, physical treatments, and nonconventional treatments, can have both positive and negative effects on the nutritional quality of milk proteins. 

On one hand, processing techniques can enhance the nutritive and therapeutic properties of proteins. 

However, it is important to note that intermediate or end products resulting from protein reactions during processing can potentially lead to toxicity and/or antigenicity concerns if consumed at elevated levels. 

Therefore, while processing can contribute to the improvement of protein quality, careful consideration is necessary to ensure the overall safety and beneficial impact of these operations on milk proteins. (7)

Why is milk consumption a controversial topic?

Milk can pose potential health risks for certain individuals due to its challenging digestion and absorption. 

Metabolic diseases and allergies can result in adverse effects, necessitating the exclusion of milk from the diet. Two common conditions that require milk avoidance are lactose intolerance and cow’s milk protein allergy.

Lactose intolerance affects approximately 75% of the global population and can affect individuals of all ages. It stems from a deficiency of the lactase enzyme, leading to inadequate lactose digestion. 

Consequently, symptoms such as flatulence, abdominal pain, and diarrhea may occur after consuming milk and dairy products.

In contrast, cow’s milk protein allergy primarily affects children in their first three years of life. This allergy involves the body’s immune reaction against the protein components present in milk. It triggers the release of antibodies, histamines, and other defensive agents, leading to various allergic symptoms.

To mitigate the potential harm associated with these conditions, exclusion of milk from the diet becomes essential for affected individuals. Understanding these metabolic diseases and allergies is crucial for promoting the well-being of individuals who experience adverse reactions to milk consumption. (4)


In this brief guide, we answered the question, “How much milk can you drink?’. We looked at the impact of consuming milk in moderation and excess. We delved and elaborated on how much of the milk can and should a person drink.

Other FAQs about Milk which you may be interested in.

How many gallons of milk can a cow produce?

How to use condensed milk in place of milk?

Can you use evaporated milk instead of regular milk?


  1. Mullie P, Pizot C, Autier P. Daily milk consumption and all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease and stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational cohort studies. BMC Public Health. 2016.
  2. Pereira, P. C., & Vicente, F.  Milk Nutritive Role and Potential Benefits in Human Health. Nutrients in Dairy and Their Implications on Health and Disease, 161–176. 2017.
  3. Visioli F, Strata A. Milk, dairy products, and their functional effects in humans: a narrative review of recent evidence. Adv Nutr. 2014.
  4. Silva, A. R. A., Silva, M. M. N., & Ribeiro, B. D.  Health Issues and Technological Aspects of Plant-based Alternative Milk. Food Research International, 108972. 2020.
  5. Van Arendonk, J. A. M., van Valenberg, H. J. F., & Bovenhuis, H.  Exploiting genetic variation in milk-fat composition of milk from dairy cows. Improving the Safety and Quality of Milk, 197–222. 2010.
  6. Palmquist, D. L. (n.d.). Milk Fat: Origin of Fatty Acids and Influence of Nutritional Factors Thereon. Advanced Dairy Chemistry Volume 2 Lipids, 43–92. 2006.
  7. Borad SG, Kumar A, Singh AK. Effect of processing on nutritive values of milk protein. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 57(17).2017.

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