Milk consumption does not protect against fractures, according to new data from the Harvard Nurses? Study. The study recruited a group of 77,761 women who were between 34 and 59 years of age when the study began in 1980, and followed them for the next 12 years. Those who drank three or more glasses of milk per day had no reduction at all in the risk of hip or arm fractures compared to those who drank little or no milk, even after adjustment for weight, menopausal status, smoking and alcohol use. In fact, the fracture rates were slightly higher for those who consumed this much milk compared to those who drank little or no milk.
The findings resonate with international comparisons that show that fracture rates in Scandinavia and other areas where dairy products are commonly consumed are actually much higher, not lower, than in Asia and other areas where milk products are rarely used.
The differences are the result of two other factors. First, in international studies, genetics play a role, with white women at higher risk than other groups. Second, other animal protein greatly increases calcium loss via the kidneys. Since dairy cattle are slaughtered when their productivity declines, usually at four years of age in the US, countries where milk is consumed tend to have plenty of hamburger on grocery shelves. It may be that meat consumption is what leads to the fractures. Salt, caffeine, tobacco, and a sedentary lifestyle also contribute to calcium losses.
--reprinted from Good Medicine, a publication of Physicians for Responsible Medicine, Autumn 1997