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The potential nutrition-, physical- and health-related benefits of cow’s milk for primary-school-aged children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2021

Penny Rumbold*
Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Nicola McCullogh
Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Ruth Boldon
Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Crystal Haskell-Ramsay
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Lewis James
National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine East Midlands, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, National Centre of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
Emma Stevenson
Human Nutrition Research Centre, Population Health Sciences Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Benjamin Green
Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK Danone Specialised Nutrition, Trowbridge, UK
*Corresponding Author: Penny Rumbold, Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. E-mail:


Cow’s milk is a naturally nutrient-dense foodstuff. A significant source of many essential nutrients, its inclusion as a component of a healthy balanced diet has been long recommended. Beyond milk’s nutritional value, an increasing body of evidence illustrates cow’s milk may confer numerous benefits related to health. Evidence from adult populations suggests that cow’s milk may have a role in overall dietary quality, appetite control, hydration and cognitive function. Although evidence is limited compared with the adult literature, these benefits may be echoed in recent paediatric studies. This article, therefore, reviews the scientific literature to provide an evidence-based evaluation of the associated health benefits of cow’s milk consumption in primary-school-aged children (4–11 years). We focus on seven key areas related to nutrition and health comprising nutritional status, hydration, dental and bone health, physical stature, cognitive function, and appetite control. The evidence consistently demonstrates cow’s milk (plain and flavoured) improves nutritional status in primary-school-aged children. With some confidence, cow’s milk also appears beneficial for hydration, dental and bone health and beneficial to neutral concerning physical stature and appetite. Due to conflicting studies, reaching a conclusion has proven difficult concerning cow’s milk and cognitive function; therefore, a level of caution should be exercised when interpreting these results. All areas, however, would benefit from further robust investigation, especially in free-living school settings, to verify conclusions. Nonetheless, when the nutritional-, physical- and health-related impact of cow’s milk avoidance is considered, the evidence highlights the importance of increasing cow’s milk consumption.

Review Article
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Nutrition Society

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These authors contributed equally to this work.


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The potential nutrition-, physical- and health-related benefits of cow’s milk for primary-school-aged children
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