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Is Cow Milk The Reason Behind Your Acne Breakouts?

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on - 09 June 2022, Updated on - 10 January 2024

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Do you know the amount of cow milk India consumed in the year 2021? 83 million metric tons! Yes, that’s true! India is the largest consumer of cow milk followed by the European Union which consumed 23 million metric tons and the USA which consumed 21 million metric tons. This report may leave you astonished but given the way we Indians swear by cow milk, it shouldn’t leave us surprised. Be it the morning breakfast, afternoon tea, evening shake or the dinner sweet course, cow milk has displayed its proud presence in almost everything we consume. Further, the ample health benefits of cow milk have made it an inseparable component of our diet for ages.

Health Benefits of Cow Milk

Cow milk comes with an extremely complex nutritional composition and a cup of whole milk contains:

  • Energy: 149 kcals
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 8 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 12 grams 

Besides the high nutritional composition, cow milk also contains many essential nutrients like vitamins A, D, B2 and B12, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc that are essential for the healthy growth of our body. The high protein content in the milk helps in the overall growth and development of our body, while the calcium content strengthens the bones and teeth and plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of osteoporosis. It has also been found that consuming cow milk daily can help reduce the progression of osteoarthritis.


Now that we know the benefits of cow milk, let us know about the proteins present in milk!

Cow Milk Proteins

The protein present in cow milk can be divided into two groups; casein and whey protein. While casein is the insoluble milk protein, whey is the soluble milk protein. 

  • Casein Protein: The casein protein constitutes 80% of the total protein present in cow milk. It is an insoluble protein that is also found in dairy products like cheese and yoghurt and gets digested more slowly than any other proteins. It helps in improving the absorption of minerals like calcium and phosphorus in the body.
  • Whey Protein: The other 20% of cow milk protein is whey protein. It is a soluble protein and offers high nutritional value. It can help in muscle growth and improve the body's antioxidant defence. 

Can Cow Milk Cause Acne? 

When consumed in large quantities, whey protein can lead to breakouts. Research shows that post-digestion, cow milk contributes to the elevation of postprandial insulin and basal insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Elevated levels of IGF-1 have been shown to enhance sebum production, stimulate adrenal androgen synthesis and escalate the absorption of androgen in the body, all of which result in the development of acne. 


Moreover, studies have shown that dairy cows are often administered with bovine growth hormones to increase their milk supply. Milk obtained from these cows contains high levels of IGF-1, which can lead to breakouts.

Does this mean that you should stop consuming cow milk? We don’t think so. Given the health benefits of cow milk, cutting down the consumption can remove many important nutrients and minerals from your diet that may further affect the healthy functioning and growth of your body. Hence, the best thing to do is to follow the ‘consumption in moderation’ method. Anything consumed in large quantities can inflict side effects, so cow milk cannot be singularly blamed.

Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Bhatt.

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