New Warning on Milk: Does it Cause Fractures and Early Mortality?
For years doctors and nutritionists have recommended drinking milk since it’s a good source of calcium which we need to keep our bones and bodies healthy. But a new study suggests that getting more than 8 ounces of milk, 3 times a day, can increase a women’s risk of dying at an early age and suffering from hip and vertebral fractures.
A study on milk was completed at the Uppsala University in Sweden that included 61,433 women that were between the ages of 39 and 74. The men’s group included 45,339 ages 45 to 79. The University followed the women for over 20 years and observed a 15 percent increase in death for every glass of milk consumed. 17,252 women had fractures and 4,259 of them were hip fractures. Of the men followed for 11 years, there was no increase in fractures of any kind or early mortality.
What was the cause of these fractures and the patient’s early death?
Researchers found that a component in milk may be the cause of these findings. This substance is galactose, which is a type of simple sugar found in milk. Galactose may cause oxidative stress which leads to chronic inflammation causing a rise in mortality and fractures. We know that stress is harmful to our health and our bones due to the increase in cortisol, the stress hormone that breaks down bones and causes fractures as well as having other negative health impacts.
At the Uppsala University in Sweden some of the study participants consumed other forms of calcium and their risk of early death dropped by 10 to 15 percent. Other forms of calcium used were fermented milk, cheese or yogurt and greens which do not contain galactose.
If you’d like to add other forms of calcium to your daily diet I’ve listed some options below that have calcium, but do not have galactose, the sugar at the center of this debate.
Alternate Sources of Calcium
415 milligrams (mg)
100 – 1,000 mg
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, we need to get 1,200 milligrams of calcium for women 51 or older, from diet and supplements. If you get plenty of calcium from your diet you will only need to supplement with calcium to make up the total recommended daily allowance. For instance, if you get 800 milligrams from your diet, then you only need an additional 400 milligrams in supplement. Our bodies cannot absorb more than 500-600 milligrams at one serving, so split up the amounts you take over three meals. Calcium is best absorbed with food, even though calcium citrate can be taken with or without food. Calcium carbonate needs foods to break down its mineral components and assimilate into your body.
According to Dr. C. Mary Schooling, the study findings should be interpreted cautiously, though, because the authors rely on observational — not experimental — evidence, potentially reflecting correlation, not causation. Another reason to be cautious is the fact that in Sweden milk is fortified with vitamin A which could affect the outcome of this study. Here in the United States, vitamin A is not added to milk products that contain calcium.
If you are concerned about the results of this study, keep in mind that it wasn’t based on a cause and effect investigation, with the consumption of milk. If we knew that milk had a proven scientific link to early death and increased fractures then we could use other sources of calcium only; however, we need further study in this area to prove a direct link between milk, increased fractures and early mortality.
National Institutes of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements. (11-21-2-13). Calcium Dietary Fact Sheet. Accessed 10-29-14 from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
National Osteoporosis Foundation. How Much Calcium Do You Need. Calcium and Vitamin D: What You Need to Know. Accessed 10-29-14 from http://nof.org/articles/10#CALCIUM
Live Science, Anne Harding. (10-28-14). 3 Servings of Milk a Day Linked to Higher Mortality in Women. Accessed 10-29-14 from http://www.livescience.com/48503-3-servings-milk-linked-higher-mortality.html?cmpid=514645