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Got Milk? The white stuff may contain lots of essential nutrients, but recent research suggests too much isn't good.

Swedish researchers from Uppsala University took a very close look at the dietary habits of a staggering 61,400 women and 45,300 men in the 1980s and 1990s. The participants answered questions about how frequently they consumed foods considered to be dietary staples — including milk, yogurt and cheese — for a whole year. After that the study team monitored their health, noting how many developed fractures and how many died. Their results were published in the British Medical Journal in October 2014.

The women, who were examined earlier than the men, were then followed for a total of 20 years. The results were interesting, and not at all what one might expect. The heavy milk drinkers, those women who consumed 680 ml or at least three glasses a day, were found to be more likely to suffer fractures than those who drank less, including a 50 percent higher risk of hip fractures. While that's surprising, it is not the whole story.

Lead researcher Karl Michaelsson said: "Women who drank three or more glasses a day had twice the chance of dying at the end of the study than those who drank less than one glass a day."

The male study participants were followed for a shorter period, an average of 11 years. Again, those who drank more milk had a higher risk of dying and suffering fractures, but the differences between the milk drinkers and milk avoiders weren't as steep as with the women. 

Professor Michaelsson concludes: "Our results may question the validity of recommendations to consume high amounts of milk to prevent fragility fractures. The results should, however, be interpreted cautiously given the observational design of our study."

Fermented Dairy Products Are Healthier?

Does this study make you question the health benefits of milk, which you may have believed in all your life? Before you start shunning dairy products altogether, you should know that the study also made another extremely interesting finding: fermented milk products like yogurt were not associated with higher risks of fractures and dying! In fact, consuming large amounts of fermented milk products was found to reduce these risks.

Professor Michaelsson and his team believe this difference to be due to the fact that milk contains a high amount of sugar (lactose and galactose), while fermented milk products don't. Animal studies show that these sugars play a role in the aging process. The study team reported: "A high intake of milk might, however, have undesirable effects, because milk is the main dietary source of D-galactose. Experimental evidence in several animal species indicates that chronic exposure to D-galactose is deleterious to health and the addition of D-galactose by injections or in the diet is an established animal model of aging."

At the same time, the team also made it very clear that further studies are needed and it's too early too conclude it's best to avoid a high-milk diet. Milk and milk products are, after all, the source of more than half of most people's calcium intake and a lack of calcium puts them at risk of osteoporosis and other diseases.

Do you want to err on the side of caution, however? Perhaps it's time to change that slogan into "Got Yogurt?"

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