Milk, But Not Yogurt or Cheese, Linked to Higher Mortality and Fracture Risk
A study casts doubt on the idea that drinking milk is good for bones and health, finding that high milk consumption is associated with greater mortality and fracture risk and increased inflammation. Published in the BMJ, the study tracked milk intake in 61,433 women (aged 39-74 initially) for about 22 years and 45,339 men (aged 45-79 initially) for about 13 years. Adjustments were made in the final analysis for several variables, including age, smoking status, and physical activity, among other things. Here’s what the researchers found:
- Women who drank three or more cups of milk per day had almost twice the risk of dying compared with women who drank one cup or less per day.
- Women who drank three or more cups of milk per day increased their risk of fractures, with a noticeable increased risk for hip fractures.
- Men who drank three or more cups of milk per day had a slightly higher risk of dying compared with men who drank a cup or less per day, and no increased risk of fracture.
- Milk consumption was also associated with higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation markers in a smaller group of study participants.
- Fermented dairy products, however, such as yogurt and cheese, did not raise mortality or fracture risk; in fact, they were associated with a lower risk of fracture and mortality in women.
Researchers suggest that one explanation for the findings is that milk, but not fermented dairy, is a significant source of D-galactose; in animal studies D-galactose has been shown to lead to inflammation and oxidative stress in even small amounts. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the science is somewhat conflicting—other studies have not found an association between milk intake and increased risk of death and fracture.
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