World milk production derives from cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, and camels, with buffalo milk being the second most consumed type after cow’s milk (1).

Just like cow’s milk, buffalo milk has a high nutritional value and is used to produce dairy products like butter, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.

This article reviews buffalo milk’s benefits and downsides, as well as how it compares to cow’s milk.

What is buffalo milk?

Buffaloes — or Bubalus bubalis — are mammals, meaning that their mammary glands produce milk to feed their offspring. In some countries, they are milked for commercial purposes.

Though there are many varieties of buffaloes, the water buffalo contributes the most to the world’s milk production (2).

Water buffaloes are divided into the river and swamp types. The river buffalo accounts for the majority of the milk production, while the swamp buffalo is mainly used as a draught animal (3).

India and Pakistan produce about 80% of all buffalo milk worldwide, followed by China, Egypt, and Nepal, where you find more dairy buffaloes than cows (2, 4).

You also find dairy buffaloes in the Mediterranean, specifically in Italy, where their milk is mainly used to make cheese (1, 5).

Buffalo milk has a high protein and fat content, which gives it a rich and creamy texture perfect for producing butter, cream, and yogurt (3).

Summary

Buffalo milk is a creamy dairy product mostly produced from water buffaloes. India and Pakistan produce the most buffalo milk worldwide.

Buffalo milk vs. cow’s milk

Both buffalo and cow’s milk are highly nutritious and provide a great amount of vitamins and minerals, but buffalo milk packs more nutrients and calories per serving.

Below is a comparison between 1 cup (244 ml) of buffalo and whole cow’s milk (6, 7, 8):

Buffalo milkWhole cow’s milk
Calories237149
Water83%88%
Carbs12 grams12 grams
Protein9 grams8 grams
Fat17 grams8 grams
Lactose13 grams11 grams
Calcium32% of the Daily Value (DV)21% of the DV

Buffalo milk has more protein, fat, and lactose than whole cow’s milk.

Consuming milk with higher protein content increases your feelings of fullness. This may help reduce food intake throughout the day, thus helping you lose weight and body fat (9).

On the other hand, if you want to reduce your fat intake or have mild lactose intolerance, opting for cow’s milk may be better.

Buffalo milk also has more vitamins and minerals. It provides 41% of the DV for phosphorus, 32% of the DV for calcium, 19% of the DV for magnesium, and 14% of the DV for vitamin A, compared with 29%, 21%, 6%, and 12% in cow’s milk, respectively (6, 7).

It’s also worth noting that because buffaloes are more effective at converting beta-carotene — an antioxidant with a distinctive yellow color — into vitamin A, their milk is whiter than cow’s milk (4, 8).

Lastly, since buffalo milk is lower in water but higher in fat, it has a thicker texture that’s suitable in the production of fat-based dairy products like butter, ghee, cheese, and ice cream (4, 8).

Summary

Buffalo milk has a higher fat, protein, lactose, vitamin, and mineral content than cow’s milk. It’s also whiter and has a thicker consistency, which makes it perfect for the production of fat-based dairy products.

Benefits of drinking buffalo milk

Studies suggest that buffalo milk may have multiple health benefits.

May support bone health

Buffalo milk provides high amounts of calcium, a mineral needed for bone development. It’s also a source of casein-derived peptides that may promote bone health and reduce your risk of osteoporosis, a disease characterized by bone weakening and increased risk of fractures (10).

Casein is a major protein found in milk, comprising about 89% of buffalo milk’s total protein content (11).

Studies in rats show that some casein-derived peptides may increase bone density and strength, enhance bone formation, and reduce bone resorption — the process of releasing minerals from the bones into the blood (10, 12).

Though these results are promising for osteoporosis therapy, further research is needed to verify these effects in humans.

May provide antioxidant activity

Like other dairy products, buffalo milk has antioxidant properties due to its vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds.

Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals, a group of compounds with harmful effects on your body that have been linked to certain diseases.

One test-tube study determined that the total antioxidant capacity of buffalo milk ranged between 56–58%, compared with 40–42% for cow’s milk. Buffalo milk’s higher antioxidant ability was credited to its higher monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) content (4).

Similarly, another study found that buffalo milk fat provides small amounts of phenolic compounds and fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A and E, all of which have potent antioxidant properties (13).

May improve heart health

Beta-lactoglobulin and potassium in buffalo milk may help reduce high blood pressure.

Beta-lactoglobulin is a primary whey protein and an important source of bioactive compounds associated with health benefits (14).

One test-tube study found beta-lactoglobulin in buffalo milk to inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme — an enzyme that increases blood pressure by tightening blood vessels — thus reducing blood pressure levels (15).

What’s more, potassium is a key mineral involved in blood pressure control, and buffalo milk boasts a high potassium content, providing 9% of the DV per 8-ounce (244-ml) serving (6, 16, 17).

Summary

Buffalo milk is rich in bioactive compounds that may promote bone and heart health and protect your body from oxidative stress.

Potential downsides

Research on the downsides of drinking buffalo milk is still inconclusive.

Some believe that if you have cow’s milk allergy (CMA), buffalo milk may be a suitable allergy-friendly substitute, while others disagree.

Typical cow’s milk allergens include casein as well as alpha- and beta-lactoglobulin. Other proteins — such as different types of immunoglobulins (Ig) or bovine serum albumin — may also cause allergic reactions in some individuals (18).

One study comparing the casein content and composition of cow’s, goat, sheep, and buffalo milk determined that the structural differences between cow’s and buffalo milk made the latter less allergenic (19).

That said, research on IgE-mediated allergy — a type of Ig — to cow’s milk protein may suggest otherwise, as a study in 24 people with CMA determined that buffalo milk tested positive for IgE-mediated reactions in 100% of the tested cases (20).

Older research suggests that this may be due to cross-reactivity between the two types of milk, as human antibodies responsible for cow’s milk allergy may also recognize buffalo milk proteins, thus reacting to them as well (21).

Overall, more research is still needed on this topic.

Summary

People with cow’s milk allergy may also be allergic to buffalo milk, although research is still inconclusive.

The bottom line

Though buffalo milk isn’t as popular in America as cow’s milk, it’s the main type of milk consumed in many South Asian countries.

It has a high nutritional value, providing more protein, vitamins, and minerals than cow’s milk. Plus, it contains beneficial compounds that may provide antioxidant protection and improved bone and heart health.

However, it’s also higher in fat, lactose, and calories compared with cow’s milk and may cause similar allergic reactions if you have CMA.

You can find buffalo milk in many popular dairy products, such as butter, ghee, a variety of cheeses, and ice cream.