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Excess milk drinking may increase female mortality

By Tim Sandle     Nov 2, 2014 in Science
Uppsala - A new study suggests that a high consumption of milk by women is associated with an increased risk of cancer and bone damage.
Milk can offer many nutritional benefits, such as calcium and protein. However, drinking a lot of milk does not seem to provide a health benefit for women. Moreover, a high level of milk consumption may negatively affect long-term health.
These findings come via a study conducted in Sweden. For the study, CBS News summarizes, researchers monitored a group of women (around 61,000 individuals) over 20 years. The researchers found that women who drank three or more glasses of milk per day were almost twice as likely to die as those who drank less than one glass per day. This was after all other factors that might cause poor health were accounted for. This “excessive” level of milk drinking also correlated with a 44 percent increased risk of cancer and a greater chance of developing heart problems. To add to this, the risk of any bone fracture increased 16 percent.
Men were not immune to the effect, although the risks are seemingly lower. Men's overall risk of death increased about 10 percent when they drank three or more glasses of milk daily. With the study into males, some 45,000 individuals were tracked over an equivalent 20 year period to the women.
Why might this be so? The researchers think that the negative health effect are due to the high levels of sugars contained in milk, specifically lactose and galactose.
Instead of milk, the researchers argue, the consumption of cheese, yogurt or buttermilk are better approaches for consuming dairy products (these products have a low lactose content). Nonetheless, the findings should be treated with caution according to Mary Schooling, a professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health. Schooling wrote an editorial that accompanied the published research.
One variable is that the people involved in the study may not have been able to reliably estimate their volume of milk intake per day, and there may have been various unmeasured factors influencing the outcomes. It should also be noted that milk in Sweden is fortified with vitamin A, and high levels of vitamin A intake have been linked to an increased risk of fracture.
The research was undertaken by scientists based at Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and it has been published in the British Medical Journal. The study is titled “Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies”.
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