Shared 1,500 times as of March 31, 2020, a post here on a page called “The Bullvine” claims that you can “Fight COVID-19 with a Glass of Milk,” since milk contains “lactoferrin, which is a protein that helps to fight off viruses,” as well as “Vitamin C and Zinc, which both play very important roles in strengthening your immunity.” It is misleading to say that drinking milk will help prevent or fight off COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (here), “there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” As protection against infection, the CDC recommends washing hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, wearing a face mask when feeling ill, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, and staying distant from other people.
The British Nutrition Foundation states here , “No food or supplement, can protect you from getting the coronavirus (COVID-19). Nevertheless, having a healthy diet is important in supporting our immune function and many nutrients influence the body’s ability to fight infection.”
It is true that vitamin C and zinc play vital roles in the body’s immune system. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease” (here). The NIH also says that zinc “helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses” (here).
However, milk does not contain a significant amount of vitamin C or zinc. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists foods and their nutrients in a database. For non-branded whole milk, it lists 0.903 mg of zinc and 0 mg of Vitamin C per cup (here).
The National Dairy Council (NDC) confirmed to Reuters via email that “Cow’s milk is not a good source of vitamin C or zinc based on [the Food and Drug Administration’s] definition of what can be called a ‘good’ source”. They listed other nutrients present in cow’s milk – including Vitamin A, D and protein – that can help maintain healthy immune function.
A report by The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy listing the health benefits of dairy products (by nutrients they contain qualifying as “high” or “good”) makes no mention of Vitamin C and lists zinc as a nutrient found in yoghurt, but not cow’s milk (here ). The NDC confirmed yoghurt is a good source of zinc, but that cow’s milk isn’t.
The effects of lactoferrin, defined here as “a protein found in cow milk and human milk”, on the immune system are not widely known. The NDC confirmed to Reuters that tests with lactoferrin have been limited and with mixed results.
Dr. Mark Pochapin (here), a gastroenterologist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said he did not think there was “really any significant health benefit to lactoferrin.” Like the CDC and the WHO, Dr. Pochapin advised that people “just be meticulous” about washing their hands, avoid touching their face, and keep social distancing.
Partly false: No food or drink can prevent catching the coronavirus, although milk can form part of a healthy diet that will support immune function. Milk is not a good source of vitamin C or zinc, and the effects of lactoferrin on the immune system are not fully known.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.