Drink more milk, it’s healthy and makes for stronger bones. It’s what we all learned. But were we taught right?
To find out how milk affects your bones, Swedish scientists checked the data of thousands of volunteers who took part in a large health control project that lasted for years.
61,000 women were monitored for 20 years and during that time between 39 and 74 years old. Humanity’s male part was covered by 45,000 men monitored for 11 years and aged 45 to 79.
On a regular basis all these people answered questions about their weight, nutrition, fitness activities, alcohol consumption, smoking etc.
What, the Swedes wondered, would we find if we account for all those factors and solely looked at milk consumption as the decisive difference between people?
For Women The Milk Turned Sour
They went to work and found that at the end of the long assessment periods 25,500 people had died and 22,000 had suffered a bone fracture.
What difference did milk make? Especially for women the results are unsettling:
- Women who drank three glasses of milk on a regular basis had a death toll of 180 per 1000
- Among those who only drank one glass it was 110
- 42 of 1000 women who drank a lot of milk suffered a hip fracture
- But only 31 of 1000 of the “little is enough” group experienced the same
For men drinking or not drinking milk made little difference: high milk consumption was related to only a slightly higher rate of death and there was no difference in number of fractures between milk aficionados and milk teetotalers.
Causation Vs. Correlation
I’m pretty sure this study will make the rounds, especially in those circles who classify drinking milk as torture of unsuspecting ruminants.
However, the researchers themselves stress that their results don’t imply causality. Meaning it could very well be that women told they have a higher risk of osteoporosis (a prime reason for fractures) drink more milk and later the milk gets blamed for the fractures.
More research is needed, but nonetheless I found this study very interesting. It challenged an assumption we (me included) believed for decades without much thinking and little rational backup.
Picture courtesy of “cheeseslave“.