Drink lots of milk to strengthen your bones and boost your health, doctors say.
But a study in The BMJ medical journal yesterday said Swedes with a high intake of cows’ milk died younger, and women suffered more fractures.
The findings raise questions about milk consumption, although further research was needed, its authors said, as the association may be coincidental.
A Swedish team used data taken from 61,000 women aged 39-74 and monitored for about 20 years, and more than 45,000 men aged 45-79 followed for 11 years.
“Women who consumed three glasses or more per day had a 90 per cent higher risk of death, 60 per cent higher risk of hip fracture and 15 per cent higher risk of any fracture compared with those who drank less than a glass,” said co-author Karl Michaelsson of Uppsala University.
For men, the difference in death rate was less pronounced, but there was no difference in fracture rates.
The team found that fermented milk products such as cheese or yoghurt were associated with lower mortality and fracture rates, particularly in women.
One reason, the authors speculated, was that milk, but not cheese, was high in D-galactose, a type of sugar that was shown to hasten ageing.
The researchers said it was impossible to draw conclusions or make recommendations on milk consumption until further work was carried out.
Some experts noted shortcomings in the study, including that milk consumption was self-reported, often a flaw in dietary research.
Nor did the authors define the type of physical activity the men and women did, and whether it was weight-bearing and therefore bone-strengthening, or not.
The study “creates more questions than provides answers”, said Catherine Collins, principal dietitian at St George’s Hospital in London.