What Are Some Disadvantages of Milk?

A cold glass of milk is a common sight on dinner tables around the world. It isn't just for children either. Adults should consume 3 cups of milk daily, according to the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010." Although milk certainly has its advantages -- it's a good source of protein, calcium and vitamins A, D and B-12 -- there are also some potential disadvantages to keep in mind.

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Many dairy farmers put hormones in the diets of their milk-producing cows. These hormones are meant to increase milk production so that farmers are able to supply a larger quantity of milk to consumers. There is some concern that these hormones increase your risk of developing prostate, breast and colorectal cancer. However, studies have produced conflicting results and if there is a link between hormones in milk and cancer, the nature of the link remains undetermined, according to the American Cancer Society.

Saturated Fat

woman looking at milk selection in grocery store (Image: Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Unless you drink skim milk, your glass of milk will contain saturated fat, which can increase levels of cholesterol. A 1-cup serving of whole milk contains 9 grams of total fat, which includes 6 grams of saturated fat. Two percent, or reduced fat milk, has about half the amount of total and saturated fat as whole milk, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. If you choose 1 percent milk, the fats drop to 2.4 grams of total fat and 2 grams of saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of your total daily calories.


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If you have a milk allergy, your immune system overreacts to proteins in milk, which triggers a reaction ranging from rashes, hives, itching and swelling to trouble breathing. A severe reaction can be life threatening. An allergy to cow's milk is the most common food allergy in infants and children, according to Food Allergy Research and Education. While most children outgrow their milk allergy it can persist into adulthood. The only way to avoid symptoms is to eliminate cow's milk and milk products.

Lactose Intolerance

woman with stomach cramps (Image: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images)

Lactose is a sugar naturally found in milk. If you're lactose intolerant, you lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose. When you consume milk you may experience symptoms such as cramps, gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. While these symptoms are unpleasant, intolerance is not the same as an allergy and you're not at risk for severe reactions. Lactose intolerance is relatively common and more likely to occur in adulthood than childhood, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.


woman with stuffy nose (Image: Dandamanwasch/iStock/Getty Images)

Many people believe that drinking milk increases the amount of mucus, which may aggravate an existing cold, stuffy nose or sinusitis. While milk, especially whole milk, can coat your throat and may thicken phlegm, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that milk is not related to mucus production. Research does not support an association between milk and mucus or lung function.

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