Drinking Milk Increases Hip Fracture Risk in Men, Study Finds

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Source: “No Label Indeed? Aspartame with Milk May Cause Brain Seizures,” southweb.org, Mar. 8, 2013

New peer-reviewed research has found that men who drank more milk during their teenage years were at greater risk of hip fracture in their later lives. The risk increased by 9% for every additional glass of milk they consumed daily as a teen.

The November 2013 study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, assessed hip fracture rates among 61,000 women and 35,000 men over a period of 22 years. 490 hip fractures occurred during that period in the men, and more than 1,200 among the women. The participants were asked to recall their milk consumption habits as teenagers.

The researchers said greater milk intake leads to greater height, which may explain the increased risk of fracture: “height is a risk factor for hip fractures in later life.” The risk of hip fracture in men was found to increase by 5% for every extra centimeter of height. The authors said it is still unclear why taller people are at greater risk for hip fracture.

No increased risk was found in women. Teenage milk consumption did not show any protective effect against hip fracture for either sex.

The study’s lead author, Diane Feskanich, ScD, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Associate Epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, stated that “It does make you stop and ponder and want to see better evidence for our dietary recommendations.” Feskanich qualified her comments, however: “I don’t consider this to be a definitive finding that would change the public-health message concerning milk at this point.”

The US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends an intake of “3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products for adults and children and adolescents ages 9 to 18 years.”

An editorial published alongside the study, written by Connie M. Weaver, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University, questioned the researchers’ findings, stating that previous studies have shown “a benefit to milk consumption during growth on later bone health.” Weaver noted that the study relied on participants’ recall of their milk intake from decades prior, which could be unreliable. She also stated that “Their theory holds together based on the proposition that drinking milk will make boys taller and more prone to breaking bones, but the impact on height really shouldn’t be different for boys and girls.”

An earlier 2013 study, performed by the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, found that milk consumption may increase hip bone strength, and a Jan. 2003 study published in the American Journal of the College of Nutrition found that less milk consumption during childhood and adolescence was associated with a decrease in hip bone health in later life. However, researchers have noted that countries with high milk consumption, including Finland, Sweden, and the United States, also have the highest rates of the bone disease osteoporosis.

Milk’s other health effects have been debated, with proponents arguing that dairy products protect against cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and dairy critics arguing that milk intake puts people in greater danger of contracting those same conditions.

Sources:

“Drinking Milk in Teen Years Questioned for Bone Benefits,” cbc.ca, Nov. 18, 2013

Diane Feskanich, ScD, “Milk Consumption During Teenage Years and Risk of Hip Fractures in Older Adults,” JAMA Pediatrics, Nov. 18, 2013

Thijs R. Klompmaker, “Excessive Calcium Causes Osteoporosis,” waisays.com, 2012

“Milk Consumption in Teens ‘Increases Risk of Hip Fractures’ for Men,” medicalnewstoday.com, Nov. 19, 2013

Alan Mozes, “Drinking Milk as Teens Might Not Protect Men’s Bones, Study Suggests,” usnews.com, Nov. 19, 2013

Cari Nierenberg, “Milk and Yogurt May Boost Hipbone Strength,” livescience.com, Feb. 22, 2013

US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services, “Dietary Guidelines for American 2010,” health.gov, Dec. 2010

Connie M. Weaver, PhD, “Milk Consumption and Bone Health,” JAMA Pediatrics, Nov. 18, 2013