10 Benefits of Milk for the Elderly

“Benefits of Milk for the Elderly” was written by Mitzi de MaaEdited/reviewed by Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND. Mitzi is a dietetic intern based out of Florida.

Did you know that consuming dairy milk has wonderful health benefits for older adults? In this article, we will discuss 10 nutritional benefits of milk for the elderly.

Types of Milk

There are different types of milk. Each type has different characteristics and nutritional content that we will learn in this article.

The main difference among dairy milks is the fat content in each serving. Whole milk has the most fat, while nonfat has the least.

Types of Dairy Milk for the Elderly: whole milk, 2% (reduced fat), 1% (low fat), and nonfat (skim).

Dairy Milk vs Plant Beverages

Nowadays there are plenty of non-dairy options for people who have allergies, lactose intolerances, or personal preference for beverages that are non-dairy.

Plant beverages include:

  • Soy
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Oat
  • Sesame
  • Almond
  • Coconut
  • Hemp
  • Hazelnut
  • Cashew
  • Flax

In comparison to dairy milk, the nutritional facts of plant-based beverages vary extensively. Therefore, it is important to check the food label of each plant beverage individually.

10 Benefits of Milk for the Elderly

10 Benefits of Milk for the Elderly 

Without further ado, let’s learn about 10 benefits of milk for the elderly:

  1. Calories
  2. Protein
  3. Fat
  4. Calcium
  5. Vitamin D
  6. Potassium
  7. Vitamin A
  8. Riboflavin
  9. Magnesium
  10. Phosphorus

1. Calories

The first benefit of consuming milk as an older adult is that milk provides a great number of calories in one cup. This can help prevent unintended weight loss and it helps older adults maintain a healthy weight. 

Unintended or involuntary weight loss is a common struggle that many older adults go through. Appetite decreases as people age, their ability to cook meals is not the same, and overall, they can have difficulty eating the same number of calories as before. 

The following table shows the number of calories in the four types of dairy milk. Flavored milks like chocolate or strawberry typically have more calories from the added syrups.

Milk TypeServing SizeKcal
Whole Milk1 cup150 kcal
2% or reduced fat1 cup122 kcal
1% or lowfat1 cup106 kcal
Nonfat or skim1 cup83 kcal 

2. Protein

Milk is a great source of protein. Protein is an important nutrient for aging adults as it helps to protect against muscle loss.

Sarcopenia is a syndrome that gradually occurs with age. It causes loss of muscle mass, strength, and function in older adults (1).

Why is sarcopenia related to protein? Because protein is a key nutrient for muscle health in older adults. And consuming adequate amounts along with resistance exercise can prevent sarcopenia.

Slowing or preventing sarcopenia can mean more independence, fewer falls, fewer trips to the hospital, and improved quality of life in the elderly.

Daily Nutritional Goals for Protein

Below are the daily nutritional goals for protein measured in grams.

Age 19-59Age 60 and older
Men56 grams56 grams
Women46 grams46 grams

Referenced from Table A1-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (2).

Drinking 1 cup of milk per day of either whole, 2%, 1%, or nonfat dairy milk, provides 8 grams of protein in your day.

Therefore, milk is an easy way to get close to the recommended daily amount of protein for an adult 60 and older. 

8 grams of protein in 1 cup of milk

3. Fat

Fat is a nutrient that is essential for maintaining good health, especially as we age.

Some of the benefits of fats are:

  • Helping absorb nutrients such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K (3)
  • Giving the body energy
  • Protecting vital organs

Milk is a great source of fat for those seeking to add more of it into their daily diets.

1 cup of whole milk contains 8 grams of fat, 1 cup of 2% milk provides 5g of fat, 1 cup of 1% milk has 2g of fat, and 1 cup of nonfat milk has 0 grams of fat.

If you want to get the most fat per 1 cup of milk, choose whole milk.

Fat content in milk (1 cup): 8 grams in whole milk, 5 grams in 2%, 2 grams in 1%, and 0 grams in nonfat.

4. Calcium

Calcium is the most essential mineral for bone health. Adequate amounts are needed throughout our lives.

Adequately consuming calcium has shown to reduce the following in certain populations (4): 

Calcium deficiencies can happen to older adults due to low intake of calcium over time, osteoporosis, or because of medication since some of them can decrease dietary calcium absorption (4). 

The good news is that drinking milk can reduce the likelihood of becoming deficient in calcium. 

The following graphic shows the number of milligrams in 1 cup of the following milk types:

Calcium content in milk (1 cup): 206 mg in whole milk, 309 mg in 2%, 310 mg in 1%, and 325 mg in nonfat.

Calcium tip:

Calcium is absorbed best if you eat foods rich in calcium throughout the day rather than in just one meal (5). 

Daily Nutritional Goals for Calcium

Below are the daily nutritional goals for calcium measured in milligrams. 

Age 19-50Age 51+
Men1,000 mg1,000 mg
Women1,000 mg1,200 mg
Referenced from Table A1-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (2).

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important nutrient and hormone that keeps bones strong.

Additionally, vitamin D helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. Both of these are important for building bones, maintaining and improving muscle and physical strength (6). 

Vitamin D deficiency is quite common because this vitamin can only be obtained from a small number of foods in the diet, sunlight or supplements.

One of the benefits of milk for the elderly is that most milk is fortified. This means that vitamin D has been added to it, making it a good source of dietary Vitamin D for the elderly. 

In certain instances, vitamin D supplementation might be needed but that should be discussed with your healthcare provider. 

The following graphic shows the number of IU (International Units) in 1 cup of the following milk types: 

vitamin d content in milk (1 cup): 38.4 IU in whole milk, 45.2 IU in 2%, 104 IU in 1%, and 108 IU in nonfat.

Daily Nutritional Goals of Vitamin D

Below are the daily nutritional goals of Vitamin D measured in IU’s (International Units).

Age 19-70Age 71+
Men600 IU800 IU
Women600 IU800 IU

Referenced from Table A1-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (2).

6. Potassium

Milk is an excellent source of potassium. It provides between 150-411 mg in 1 cup of dairy milk depending on the type of milk.

Eating adequate amounts of potassium is associated with a decreased risk of strokes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and kidney stones which are conditions that can affect the elderly. 

The following graphic shows the amount of potassium in 1 cup of the following milk types: 

potassium content in milk (1 cup): 150 mg in whole milk, 159 mg in 2%, 391 mg in 1%, 411 mg in nonfat

Daily Nutritional Goals for Potassium

Below are the daily nutritional goals for Potassium measured in mg. 

Age 19-5051+
Men3400 mg3400 mg
Women2600 mg2300 mg
Referenced from Table A1-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (2).

If you have a condition that limits potassium consumption, it is important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations. 

7. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is found in many foods including milk.

Vitamin A has many functions and benefits in the body such as (7):

  • Helping the eyes adjust to light changes
  • Regulating the immune system
  • Moistening the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs
  • Playing a role in the prevention of certain cancers

Dairy products are one of the major sources where Americans get their vitamin A from.

The following graphic shows the number of vitamin A in 1 cup of the following milk types: 

vitamin A in milk (1 cup): 32 mcg in whole milk, 83 mcg in 2%, 143 mcg in 1%, and 157 mcg in nonfat

Daily Nutritional Goals for Vitamin A

Below are the daily nutritional goals for Vitamin A measured in mcg (micrograms).

Age 19-5051+
Men900  mcg900  mcg
Women700 mcg700 mcg
Referenced from Table A1-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (2).

8. Riboflavin

Did you know that riboflavin is a vitamin that helps you turn the food you eat into energy for your body? (8).

It also works as an antioxidant and when consumed adequately, it can even reduce the risk of developing age-related cataracts for the elderly (9).

Riboflavin can be found in different types of foods but milk and dairy products are good sources of it. 

The following graphic shows the amount of riboflavin in 1 cup of the following milk types:

riboflavin content in milk (1 cup): 0.138 mg in whole milk, 0.137 mg in 2%, 0.344 mg in 1%, and 0.322 mg in nonfat

Daily Nutritional Goals for Riboflavin

Below are the daily nutritional goals for Riboflavin measured in mg (milligrams).

Age 19-5051+
Men1.3 mg1.3 mg
Women1.1 mg1.1 mg
Referenced from Table A1-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (2).

9. Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in our bodies like helping our heart, muscles, nerves, and bones function well.

Eating adequate amounts of magnesium is especially important for older adults because they are less likely to eat enough magnesium-rich foods compared to younger people (9).

The following graphic shows the amount of magnesium in 1 cup of the following milk types:

magnesium in milk (1 cup): 11.9 mg in whole milk, 12 mg in 2%, 29.5 mg in 1%, and 30.8mg in nonfat

Daily Nutritional Goals for Magnesium

Below are the daily nutritional goals for Magnesium measured in mg (milligrams).

Age 19-5051+
Men400 mg420 mg
Women320 mg320 mg
Referenced from Table A1-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (2).

10. Phosphorus 

The main role of phosphorus in our bodies is in:

  • Building strong bones and teeth
  • Helping our body use important nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins so it can turn them into energy

Milk is a good source of phosphorus. It provides the following number of milligrams in 1 cup of the following milk types:

phosphorus content in milk (1 cup): 101 mg in whole milk, 103 mg in 2%, 253 mg in 1%, and 263 in nonfat.

Daily Nutritional Goals for Phosphorus

Below are the daily nutritional goals for Phosphorus measured in mg (milligrams).

Age 19-5051+
Men700 mg700 mg
Women700 mg700 mg
Referenced from Table A1-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (2).

Conclusion 

The elderly population needs key nutrients in order to thrive and enjoy good health.

Milk is a nutritious beverage that can contribute to the health of elderly people by:

  • Preventing unintended weight loss and helping maintain a healthy weight
  • Providing essential vitamins and minerals
  • Being a good source of carbohydrate, protein, and fat

We hope this article hoped to better outline the 10 benefits of milk in the elderly. Best of luck!

10 Benefits of Milk for the Elderly Infographic

(Feel free to use this infographic; please link back to this post and give credit to The Geriatric Dietitian)

References

  1. Baum JI, Kim IY, Wolfe RR. Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake?. Nutrients. 2016;8(6):359. Published 2016 Jun 8. doi:10.3390/nu8060359
  2. Dietary Guidelines Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 . Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and Online Materials | Dietary Guidelines for Americans. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials. Accessed March 30th, 2022. 
  3. National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 11, Fat-Soluble Vitamins. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218749/
  4. Beto JA. The role of calcium in human aging. Clin Nutr Res. 2015;4(1):1-8. doi:10.7762/cnr.2015.4.1.1
  5. Ellis CE. Calcium. EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/calcium. Accessed April 1, 2022. 
  6. Remelli F, Vitali A, Zurlo A, Volpato S. Vitamin D Deficiency and Sarcopenia in Older Persons. Nutrients. 2019;11(12):2861. Published 2019 Nov 21. doi:10.3390/nu11122861
  7. Fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K – 9.315 – extension. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/fat-soluble-vitamins-a-d-e-and-k-9-315/. Accessed April 1, 2022. 
  8. FCS8668/FY211: Facts about riboflavin. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FY211. Accessed April 1, 2022. 
  9. Older adults. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/life-stages/older-adults. Published January 4, 2022. Accessed April 1, 2022. 

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