Essential and Non-essential Trace Elements in Milks and Plant-Based Drinks

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2021 Nov 18. doi: 10.1007/s12011-021-03021-5. Online ahead of print.


Although milk and plant-based drinks are widely consumed foodstuffs with high nutritional value, their consumption may also mean intake of non-essential/toxic elements becoming a risk for human health. This study was aimed at determining the concentrations of essential (Ca, Co, K, Mg, Mn, Na, Ni and P) and non-essential/toxic (Hg, Pb, U and V) elements in milks (cow and goat), plant-based drinks (soy, almond, rice and oat) and infant formulas from organic and conventional production systems. Lactose-free, fresh and ultra-high-temperature (UHT) milks were also included. Chemical analyses were performed by means of inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The content of the elements hereby assessed did not depend on the production system and the presence of lactose. However, significant differences were found in the concentrations of multiple elements when comparing sterilization methods, source (animal vs. plant-based) and animal species. Non-essential elements were not detected in milks and plant-based drinks, excepting Pb, which was detected in three samples. While the consumption of goat milk is recommended, considering the global intake of essential elements and the absence of non-essential elements, further studies should be conducted to confirm the absence of non-target toxic elements at very low trace levels. On the other hand, the best plant-based drinks are those made up with almonds (intake of Ca) and soy (K and Mg). The current results should be useful to help the population to balance the benefits and risks from milks and plant-based drinks consumption, as well as to adapt their dietary habits.

Keywords: Cow milk, Goat milk; Essential elements; Plant-based drinks; Toxic elements.