We’ve long been told that milk builds strong bones, but a new study from Sweden did not show a link between high milk consumption by older adults and a lower risk of fracture. If anything, women who drank more than 3 glasses of milk a day were more likely to die in the 20-year follow-up.
The researchers had data from more than 61,000 women who were followed up over 20 years, on average. These women filled out dietary questionnaires at two different times.
The scientists also tracked about 45,000 men for 11 years. The men also filled out a dietary questionnaire.
Milk Drinkers Had More Inflammation
In Sweden, the health statistics are very good, so they were able to figure out who had fractures and who died with good accuracy. There were no reductions in fractures associated with increasing quantities of milk. For women, those drinking more than three glasses of milk daily were nearly twice as likely to die during the study as those drinking less than one glass a day. The association between milk drinking and mortality was not as strong in men, but both men and women had more markers of inflammation in their urine if they drank more milk.
Cultured Milk Products Seem Safer
Fermented milk products such as yogurt or kefir, however, were associated with lower rates of deaths or fracture. The investigators propose that this is because fermentation removes the milk sugar products lactose and d-galactose. In animal studies, these are associated with inflammation.
In the People’s Pharmacy perspective, we’d like to suggest moderation. The authors of this report urge caution in over-interpreting the results, since it is an epidemiological study and not an experimental trial. It does seem to indicate that we shouldn’t rely too heavily on drinking lots of milk as the best way to prevent osteoporosis; since other studies have thrown doubt on the safety of taking high doses of calcium supplements (as we have written), perhaps we should be relying more strongly on weight-bearing exercise as our natural approach to osteoporosis prevention.