Experts respond to Swedish link between high milk intake and increased mortality

Recent media attention was paid to Swedish research that questioned whether a high milk intake in women and men was accompanied by a lower risk of fracture. Instead it may be associated with a higher rate of death.

The authors of a study, published in the BMJ said the increased risk of early death may be explained by the high levels of sugars in milk that, in previous animal studies, have been shown to increase oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.

The researchers tracked diet, lifestyle and health data for over 100,000 people in Sweden.

They found women who drank more than three glasses of milk a  day had a greater risk of dying during the study period than those who drank just one glass of milk.

Similar results – but less pronounced – were found in men.

The Science Media Centre has posted some expert reactions.  

Among them is this comment from Dr Carol Wham, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University:

“This was an observation study and these types of studies are, by their nature, open to dispute. Although high milk intake was associated with higher fracture incidence in Swedish women this wasn’t observed in the group of Swedish men. Typically fractures are more of a problem for older women than for older men and the links observed may relate to reporting of milk intake or some other factor. The best evidence would come from a randomised controlled trial, but no sufficiently powered trials of milk consumption have been reported because large numbers of participants would be required and compliance would be difficult to determine. As the authors suggest the results of this study need to be treated with caution and independently replicated before any cause and effect can be confirmed.

“To maintain good bone health New Zealanders are recommended to consume at least three servings of low or reduced fat milk and milk products a day and to maintain a healthy body weight and active lifestyle. Estimation of future fracture risk, including a measurement of bone density is prudent for women in their sixties or men in their seventies as valuable treatments are now available to reduce fractures from occurring.”

Further comment can be found here.



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