It’s been thought for a long time that the calcium and vitamin D in milk strengthens bones and minimizes osteoporosis. Justin Worland provides evidence from a new study in the British Medical Journal that milk might not be the healthiest beverage for humans (after infancy) after all:
The bone-strengthening powers of milk have been claimed over and over again in advertisements, pop culture and around the dinner table. But a new study published in the BMJ suggests that the truism may not be true. High milk intake, the study found, doesn’t appear to protect against bone fracture and in fact may lead to increased mortality.
I remember my grandmother once asking me when I was young: “Would it kill you to finish your milk?” Well, uh, maybe…
Women who drank three glasses of milk or more every day had a nearly doubled risk of death and cardiovascular disease, and a 44 percent increased risk of cancer compared to women who drank less than one glass per day, the researchers found.
Men’s overall risk of death increased about 10 percent when they drank three or more glasses of milk daily, said the study, published online Oct. 28 in BMJ.
“The study findings have, for myself, been strong enough to cut down on my milk consumption,” said lead author Karl Michaelsson, a professor in the department of surgical sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Sticks and stones may break some bones, especially, says Dennis Thompson, in milk-drinkers:
In addition, excessive milk drinking appeared to actually increase a woman’s risk of broken bones, compared with women who drank little milk.
The risk of any bone fracture increased 16 percent in women who drank three or more glasses daily, and the risk of a broken hip increased 60 percent, the findings indicated.
Lots of milk did not appear to either protect against or promote broken bones in men.
The study’s authors think they know why:
Michaelsson and his colleagues said the increased risk of death they observed could be explained by the high levels of sugars contained in milk, specifically lactose and galactose.
Galactose has been shown to prematurely age mice in the laboratory, Michaelsson said, noting that the milk sugar promotes inflammation.
By contrast, a high intake of fermented milk products with low lactose content — such as yogurt and cheese — was associated with reduced rates of death and fracture, particularly in women, the researchers reported.