Vitamins in Milk: Goat Milk Compared to Cow's Milk

Vitamins in a bowl


Vitamins in milk can play an important part in helping to meet daily nutritional requirements. Many of us take vitamin supplements to help round out our diets, but it's well-recognized that vitamins act synergistically, and offer more benefits when obtained through food sources.

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In this article, we'll look at each vitamin, its role in human health, and how goat milk fares as a food source.

You can read straight through, or go directly to the vitamin of your choice!

Vitamin AB VitaminsVitamin C
Vitamin DVitamin EVitamin K
Summary


Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant, and aids in a variety of functions in the body. These include, in part: vision (particularly, the prevention of night blindness), bone metabolism, maintaining skin health and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Vitamin A is one of the most plentiful of the vitamins in milk. Goat milk is a rich source of vitamin A, containing up to 47% more than cow's milk.

Another notable difference is that vitamin A from cow's milk is primarily derived from its precursor, beta-carotene, which lends a yellowish color to the milk, while vitamin A from goat milk is present in the vitamin form, rather than beta-carotene. This means that if you place goat milk alongside cow's milk, the goat milk appears much whiter in color than the cow's milk.


B Vitamins

Next in the alphabet--Vitamin B consists of a family of nutrients that are known by both number and name. They are:

  • B1(thiamine)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B6 (pyridoxine)
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B9 (folic acid), and
  • B12 (cobalamins)


The B vitamins are water soluble and play an important role in cell metabolism in the body, including regulating metabolism, maintaining healthy skin and muscle tone, enhancing the immune and nervous system function and promoting cell growth.

When consumed in food, the B vitamins have also been linked to a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of cancer.

The B vitamins are yet another important component of the overall composition of vitamins in milk.

Of the B vitamins, goat milk significantly exceeds cow's milk as a source of niacin (by 350%) and B6 (by 25%).

Goat milk is lower, however, in folic acid and B12. Despite criticism of these shortcomings, the lower values are actually much closer to those found in human milk for infants, than is cow's milk.

Of the remaining B group, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and biotin, values are comparable to those of cow's milk.


Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is probably the most well-known of the antioxidants. It reduces free radicals in the body that can induce a variety of conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, inflammatory diseases and diabetes.

There is not a considerable amount of this vitamin in milk, and the content of vitamin C in both goat milk and cow's milk is comparable, both being considerably less than what is found in human milk.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is most noted for its role in promoting calcium absorption. A deficiency leads to a disease called rickets, in which skeletal deformities occur. A sufficient supply of vitamin D and calcium can also help prevent osteoporosis in the elderly.

Humans and many animals have the ability to produce vitamin D from exposure of the skin to sunlight. However, vitamin D from dietary sources becomes important for people who live or work primarily indoors or without the opportunity for sunlight exposure.

Vitamin D is probably one of the most well-recognized vitamins in milk; however, naturally occurring vitamin D in milk is only present in fairly small amounts; therefore, milk as a source of vitamin D is largely the result of commercial fortification, a process that was initiated in the 1940's, after studies showed the crucial role this vitamin played in preventing rickets. As such, the content of vitamin D in any milk is dependent for the most part on the added amount--read the labels to find the exact amount present in any milk you are considering.


Vitamin E

Vitamin E shares the status of vitamin C as another of the better known antioxidants, helping to prevent oxidative damage to cells and preventing cancer. It is fat-soluble, and the highest quantities in food are found in seeds, nuts and leafy vegetables.

There are small amounts of vitamin E naturally occurring in goat milk and cow's milk, but this quantity represents only about 1% of the recommended daily allowance, and so is not a significant source.


Vitamin K

Vitamin K is best known as a blood-clotting agent. While we normally want blood to clot to stop bleeding from a cut, etc., people on blood thinning agents, such as warfarin, due to previous clotting problems such as strokes, are usually advised to restrict their intake of vitamin K.

Vitamin K also helps prevent cancer, and serves a vital role in the factor of bone density by helping to bind calcium to the bone. It also helps prevent hardening of the arteries.

The richest sources of vitamin K are green leafy vegetables, although dairy products, including goat milk, do naturally contain small amounts of vitamin K.

Because dairy products are consumed daily in many societies, these small amounts, combined with vitamin K from vegetable sources, are usually more than adequate for maintaining healthy levels of this vitamin.


Summary

Vitamins in milk provide a substantial nutritional component to our diets. In particular, milk is high in vitamins A, the B group and D (from fortification).

In comparison to cow's milk, goat milk: (1) supplies more vitamin A, and does so in the vitamin form, rather than as beta-carotene, (2) has substantially more niacin and B6, and (3) is lower in folic acid and B12.

So, the next time you think about the vitamins in milk, think goat milk!


Sources

Bruhn, John C., "Dairy Goat Milk Composition,"
http://www.goatworld.com/articles/goatmilkcomposition.shtml.


Nutritional studies are ongoing, so check back here for any new information related to vitamins in milk!

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