What Are the Health Benefits of Milk for Adults?

by Alissa Fleck, Demand Media
    The calcium in milk promotes weight loss and prevents bone decay well into adulthood.

    The calcium in milk promotes weight loss and prevents bone decay well into adulthood.

    Many people restrict their dairy intake -- including milk -- based on the assumption that dairy products are fattening. Many people also believe milk is no longer crucial for the body’s health after adolescence. Milk, particularly low-fat varieties, as part of a well-balanced diet, boasts a variety of health benefits for adults, including providing high-quality protein for the body and even helping promote weight management.

    Preventing Osteoporosis

    Calcium, like that found in abundance in milk, is crucial in preventing osteoporosis -- or bone loss -- in middle and old age. The calcium in milk is especially important for women and the elderly, who are more prone to dangerous bone degradation. These groups have greater calcium needs, and excluding milk from the diet could lead to inadequate calcium intake. Daily calcium requirements for adults can be met by consuming two and a half to four servings of dairy products a day, One cup of nonfat milk equals one serving and contains 299 milligrams of calcium.

    Weight Management

    The “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” released a review in 2005 noting increased dietary calcium was linked to a general reduction in body fat, and especially body weight and fat loss for participants in a calorie-restricted dietary regimen. Participants studied on these regimens were also less likely to regain weight after a period of weight loss while adhering to increased calcium intake levels. These studies suggest the maximum benefit is derived from consuming the recommended amount of calcium for an individual, and not necessarily exceeding suggested dairy intake.

    Fighting Tooth Decay

    Tooth decay can happen at any age, and regularly ingesting dairy products, like milk, protects against such decay. Drinking milk lessens oral acidity, one contributing factor for decay. Drinking milk also stimulates saliva flow, which is one of the mouth’s primary defenses against decay, as it carries essential nutrients -- like the calcium found in milk -- to the teeth. Additionally, consuming milk lessens the incidence of plaque formation and results in fewer cavities. An NBC News article warns, however, that nursing coffee with milk throughout the day may actually cause an increased potential for tooth decay. Dentists recommend following up with water for these slow-sippers.

    Additional Benefits

    Regular consumption of dairy products has been linked to reduced instances of colon cancer, lower blood pressure and protection against developing Type 2 diabetes. “Men’s Health” magazine also notes milk helps adults build muscle. According to the magazine, the protein found in milk is 20 percent whey and 80 percent casein. Whey is immediately broken down into amino acids and absorbed by the blood, making it especially important after a workout. These proteins are an ideal combination for healthy muscle-building. Drinking 2 to 3 glasses of any kind of milk a day has also been linked to a lower likelihood of heart attack and stroke in adults, as evidenced by a study published in the journal “Heart” in 2005.

    About the Author

    Alissa Fleck is a contributing writer for several community newspapers in New York City. She writes book reviews for an online magazine and hosts a monthly reading series. Fleck has also interned at a literary agency and worked as a university teaching assistant. She holds a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in creative writing.

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