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Study: Milk may not protect you from brittle bones – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 2/10/2015

OGDEN – Milk. It does a body good.

Or does it?

New research suggests that drinking large amounts does not protect men or women from bone fractures, and was even linked to an overall higher risk of death during the study period.

However, researchers also said the results should be interpreted cautiously and stated the findings only suggest an association and not a direct link.

The study followed over 60,000 women ages 39 to 74 and 45,000 men ages 45 to 79. The women were followed for 22 years. The men were followed for 13 years. The study found women who drank three or more glasses of milk a 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 on glass per day.

Men’s overall risk of death increased around 10 percent when they drank more than three glasses per day.

The study, published in the BMJ, formally known as the British Medical Journal, also found an increased risk of bone fractures in people who consumed more milk.

Dr. David A. Cook, an orthopedic surgeon at Tanner Clinic, said more research needs to be done on the topic, but the conclusion that excess milk intake causes brittle bones is not warranted at this time.

“Further prospective studies need to be done to see if there is a cause and effect relationship and if so, which way it goes,” Cook said. “For example, it may be that people who have weak bones or a history of fractures are instructed by their doctors to drink more milk. These people will also tend to have more fractures and die at younger ages. That would not mean the milk drinking caused the fractures.”

The Swedish researchers postulated that a component of the lactose in milk, D-Galactose, in higher doses, could be a cause of oxidative stress and inflammation which could lead to weaker bones, but Cook said it’s premature to jump to that conclusion at this time.

“Milk contains proteins, calcium, potassium and Vitamin D which is good for everyone. Whole milk also contains the types of fats which are good for developing brains,” Cook said.

Dr. Nathan Phelps, a family physician at Ogden Clinic, said the benefits of milk have been overemphasized.

“Milk does have calcium but is not the best source of calcium,” he said. “For example, one four-ounce serving of steamed collard has approximately the same amount of calcium as one cup of milk, and calcium from kale and collards is more easily absorbed and a higher percentage of that calcium stays in the body when coming from a plant compared to an animal protein.”

Phelps also said high milk intake is possibly linked to increased risk for prostate and ovarian cancer as well as a high incidence of lactose intolerance.

“Whole milk is high in saturated fat which is leading to increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” he said. “Also, a high protein content and protein increases the rate of excretion of calcium from the kidneys, so too much milk and too much protein can actually increase our risk for osteoporosis.”

Both physicians said we should still be drinking milk, but balancing it in our diets is important.

Cook recommends whole milk for young children because of the healthy fats it contains which are good for developing brains. As they grow, he recommends switching to lower fat content milk such as one or two percent, then skim for adults. Adults don’t need the fat, but can still benefit from the protein, calcium and Vitamin D.

“I personally drink two eight-ounce glasses of skim milk per day and do not plan to change at present. I do plan to watch for further studies and may change my practice if evidence warrants in the future,” Cook said.

Phelps said we should maintain a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and use moderation with everything else.

“One glass of milk a day, along with high intake of fruits and vegetables is beneficial for bone health,” Phelps said. “If you are going to take a calcium supplement, make sure it has Vitamin D with it to help with absorption. For overall bone health it is also important to do weight bearing exercises on a regular basis.”