Everyone knows about the American “got milk?” advertising campaigns that started in the 90s and continued until just last year. This campaign, encouraging cow’s milk consumption, was created as a means to push milk sales for milk processors and dairy farmers in California. This advertising effort did cause the state of California’s milk sales to grow. However, it was mostly unsuccessful elsewhere. Because of this, it seems that the idea that milk is good for your bones has been drilled into every American’s head as common nutrition knowledge. However, there has been much research which actually indicates the opposite results of the campaign’s claims.
Research published in the British Medical Journal reveals that a high milk intake in both men and women is not necessarily accompanied by lower fracture risks as one would assume. Moreover, observational research shows that high milk intake could actually also be associated with a higher rate of death. This was suggested as women who drank more than three glasses of milk each day were found to have a higher risk of death than those who drank less than one glass of milk each day. One explanation for this occurrence could be due to the high levels of the sugars lactose and galactose in cow’s milk. In animal studies, these two sugar molecules have been shown to raise oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, the researchers say.
The research team in Sweden collected lifestyle information, weight and height as well as other factors including level of education and marital status. They used national registers to track fracture and mortality rates. The women were tracked a total of 20 years and men were tracked for 11 years on average. It was discovered that there was no decrease in fracture risk with high milk consumption. In fact, the more milk the women drank, the higher risk of death was observed. The same was seen in men, though there was a less pronounced effect. Additional analysis displayed a positive association between milk intake with oxidative stress and inflammation biomarkers. Professor Mary Schooling from City University of New York concluded in an accompanying editorial that as the consumption of milk and animal source foods may grow with economic development, the role that milk has on mortality needs to be definitively established.