Got Milk? Then You May Have an Increased Risk of Fractures and Early Death
Milk has been marketed as the perfect drink to support healthy bones and this has gone fairly undisputed by the media and medical community. A new study published this week in BMJ (British Medical Journal) questions the assumption that milk is “nature’s wellness drink” and reveals our ideas about milk may be based more on a clever and successful marketing campaign than strong science.
The cohort studies looked at over 100,000 Swedish men and women over a time period of 11-20 years to determine the relationship between amounts of milk consumed, time to death and fracture. They concluded that higher consumption of milk is NOT associated with lower risk of fracture and may be associated with higher risk of death.
So how do they think that glass of milk is making your bones brittle and killing you slowly? The terrible twosome–inflammation and oxidative stress. The sugars in milk (lactose, galactose) may be increasing cell damage and inflammatory chemicals causing premature aging.
This is not the first study to suggest excessive consumption of milk is bad for health. Studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, International Journal of Epidemiology, and Journal of Nutrition show an association between countries that consume high amounts of milk and increased risk of fractures and heart disease as well of increased risk of certain cancers.
The bottom line:
This study shows a correlation so more research is needed to draw strong conclusions. Meanwhile, I think it is wise to be moderate in milk consumption. Fermented dairy products did not have the same effect as milk in the study so they remain the better choice if you want to continue eating dairy.
Concerned about getting enough calcium if you limit milk? Despite what you have been hearing your entire life, there are many excellent sources of calcium that do NOT come from dairy products. It is possible to get all the calcium you need from vegetables, fruits, legumes, and meat. In fact, you absorb more calcium from green vegetables than dairy products according to one study. Researchers found calcium absorption rates of 50-70% from green vegetables but only about 32% of calcium was absorbed from dairy products. Non-dairy foods highest in calcium include turnip greens, lamb, sardines, collard greens, amaranth, spinach, figs, and beans. There are also many delicious non-dairy milks which you can read about here.