Milk has been a staple food in every household for better growth and nourishment—this might not be completely true, according to recent studies.
More and more evidence is surfacing, however, that milk consumption may not only be unhelpful, but it might also be detrimental.
According to the NewYork Times, a study published in The BMJ that followed more than 45,000 men and 61,000 women in Sweden age 39 and older had similar results. Milk consumption as adults was associated with no protection for men, and an increased risk of fractures in women. It was also associated with an increased risk of death in both sexes.
This wasn’t a randomized controlled trial, and no one should assume causality here. But there’s no association with benefits, and a significant association with harms.
Even studies that examine the nutrients in milk, trying to look for protective effects, often come up short. A 2007 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined high-quality studies of how calcium intake was related to fractures. The many studies of more than 200,000 people age 34 to 79 could find no link between total calcium intake and the risk of bone fractures.
This meta-analysis also reviewed randomized controlled trials that examined if calcium supplements could lower the risk of fracture. More than 6,000 middle-aged and older adults participated in these studies, where subjects were randomly assigned to get extra calcium or a placebo. Not only did the extra calcium not reduce the rate of fractures, the researchers were concerned that it may have increased the risk of hip fractures.
In the United States, milk is often fortified with vitamin D, which many believe also lends the drink bone-friendly properties. But the evidence behind this assumption is sketchy as well. It is true that vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, and for bone health, but that doesn’t mean that most people need to consume more, reports the New York Times.
A meta-analysis published in The Lancet examined the effect of vitamin D supplementation on bone mineral density in middle-aged and older adults. It found that, for the most part, consuming extra vitamin D did not improve the bones of the spine, hip or forearm. It did result in a statistically significant, but less clinically meaningful, increase in bone density at the top of the thighbone. Taken as a whole, however, vitamin D had no effect on overall total body bone mineral density.
None of this should be taken to mean that people with actual vitamin D or calcium deficiencies shouldn’t be treated by supplementation. They absolutely should. But the majority of people in the United States are not clinically deficient in these nutrients, and that’s whom milk is pitched to.
In addition, milk is not a low-calorie beverage. Even if people drink nonfat milk, three cups a day can mean an additional 250 calories consumed. Low-fat or whole milk has even more calories. In an era when every other caloric beverage is being marginalized because of obesity concerns, it’s odd that milk continues to get a pass.
As I tell patients, almost everything is perfectly good in moderation, milk included. What else would you put on cereal? Cookies without milk would be unthinkable. There’s nothing wrong with a periodic glass because you like it. But there’s very little evidence that most adults need it. There’s also very little evidence that it’s doing them much good.