Milk and dairy products: a unique micronutrient combination

J Am Coll Nutr. 2011 Oct;30(5 Suppl 1):400S-9S. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2011.10719983.


Milk and dairy products contain micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins, which contribute to multiple and different vital functions in the organism. The mineral fraction is composed of macroelements (Ca, Mg, Na, K, P, and Cl) and oligoelements (Fe, Cu, Zn, and Se). From a physicochemical point of view, the chemical forms, the associations with other ions or organic molecules, and the location of macroelements such as Ca, Mg, Na, K, P, and Cl in milk are relatively well described and understood. Thus, it is admitted that these macroelements are differently distributed into aqueous and micellar phases of milk, depending on their nature. K, Na, and Cl ions are essentially in the aqueous phase, whereas Ca, P, and Mg are partly bound to the casein micelles. About one third of the Ca, half of the P, and two thirds of the Mg are located in the aqueous phase of milk. Dairy products are more or less rich in these different minerals. In cheeses, mineral content depends mainly on their processing. The Ca content is strongly related to the acidification step. Moreover, if acidification is associated with the draining step, the Ca content in the cheese will be reduced. Thus, the Ca content varies in the following increasing order: milks/fermented milks/fresh cheeses < soft cheeses < semi-hard cheeses < hard cheeses. The chemical forms and associations are less described than those present in milk. Concerning Ca, the formation of insoluble calcium phosphate, carbonate, and lactate is reported in some ripened cheeses. The NaCl content in cheeses depends on the salting of the curd. From a nutritional point of view, it is largely admitted that milk and dairy products are important sources of Ca, Mg, Zn, and Se. The vitamin fraction of milk and dairy products is composed of lipophilic (A, D, E, and K) and hydrophilic (B(1), B(2), B(3), B(5), B(6), B(8), B(9), B(12), and C) vitamins. Because of their hydrophobic properties, the lipophilic vitamins are mainly in the milk fat fraction (cream, butter). The hydrophilic vitamins are in the aqueous phase of milk. For one part of these vitamins, the concentrations described in the literature are not always homogenous and sometimes not in accordance between them; these discrepancies are due to the difficulty of the sample preparation and the use of appropriate methods for their quantification. However, there is no doubt of the significant contribution of milk and dairy products to the intake of vitamins. Milk and dairy are considered essential sources for vitamins. Key teaching points: Milk and dairy products are unique micronutrient combinations with recognized health benefits. The concentration, chemical forms, and location of different minerals are relatively well known and described. For example, Ca is present in dairy products in different forms: free, associated with citrate, inorganic and organic phosphates, and free fatty acids. Milk and dairy products are excellent sources of Ca, P, Mg, Zn, and Se. The concentration of vitamins in milk and dairy products is variable and depends on several factors such as biosynthesis, animal feeding, physicochemical conditions (heat, light, O(2), oxidant agents), and analytical methods for their determinations. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are mainly located in the lipid phase and vitamins of group B and C in the aqueous phase. Milk and dairy products are excellent sources of vitamins A, B(1), B(2), and B(12).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Calcium, Dietary / analysis
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Copper / analysis
  • Dairy Products*
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / analysis
  • Micronutrients / analysis*
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Phosphorus, Dietary / analysis
  • Potassium, Dietary / analysis
  • Selenium / analysis
  • Sodium, Dietary / analysis
  • Vitamin A / analysis
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Vitamin E / analysis
  • Vitamin K / analysis
  • Zinc / analysis


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Micronutrients
  • Phosphorus, Dietary
  • Potassium, Dietary
  • Sodium, Dietary
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin E
  • Copper
  • Selenium
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Ascorbic Acid