Minerals and trace elements in milk

Adv Food Nutr Res. 1992;36:209-52. doi: 10.1016/s1043-4526(08)60106-0.


The nutritional roles, requirements, and metabolism and the quantitative relationship between dietary intakes and health for a number of the minerals and trace elements have been more clearly defined in recent years, but there are still considerable deficiencies in our understanding of these issues, e.g., the significance of calcium in the etiology and treatment of osteoporosis and hypertension. Reliable information is now available on the content, and the principal factors affecting it, of most of the minerals and trace elements in human and cow's milks. However, for some of the trace elements, there is still a wide variation in reported values in the literature, which is due, at least in part, to analytical difficulties. The contribution of cow milk and milk products to the diet in Western countries is significant for sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and iodine. Iodine is the only trace element for which there has been any suggestion of excessive amounts in cow milk. However, there is evidence of a decline in milk iodine concentrations in the United States in recent years, although the situation in other countries less clear. Breast milk usually has adequate mineral and trace element contents for feeding full-term infants, with the exceptions of fluoride, for which supplementation of infants is recommended, and of selenium in some countries, such as Finland and New Zealand, where maternal intakes are low. However, breast milk selenium contents have increased in these countries in recent years due to increased maternal selenium intakes. The concentrations of minerals and trace elements in infant formulas for full-term infants are generally higher than in human milk, and all appear to be more than adequate, with the possible exception of selenium, which may need to be increased in some formulas. Considerable changes in the mineral and trace element contents of formulas have been instituted in recent years in the light of improved knowledge of infant requirements. While the chemical forms of the macrominerals and some of the trace elements (iron, zinc, copper, and manganese) in milks are fairly well defined, the forms of many of the trace elements are unknown. Sodium, potassium, chloride, and iodine are believed to be almost totally absorbed from milks and infant formulas.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Milk / analysis*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Minerals / analysis*
  • Minerals / metabolism
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Trace Elements / analysis*
  • Trace Elements / physiology


  • Minerals
  • Trace Elements