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Drinking milk linked to high risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

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By David Liu, PHD

Sunday March 3, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- Drinking milk may increase risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women even though the increase in the risk is not as obvious in premenopausal women, according to Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.

Veronica L. Irvin from Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health, Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University in San Diego, CA and colleagues conducted the study and found the association between milk consumption and increased risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal Korean American women.

Milk and dairy products are considered by the industry as a good source of calcium and use of dairy products because of high levels of calcium is believed to be beneficial for bone health although critics disagree on such a notion.

The current study of 590 women was performed in 2007 to examine the association between the prevalence of osteoporosis and milk consumption among immigrant women of Korean descent in California.

As a result, lower acculturation in terms of dietary practice was found significantly related to lower milk consumption for women during the age periods of 12-18 and 19-34 years. 

On the other hand, high acculturation, which means high consumption of milk, was related to higher prevalence of osteoporosis among postmenopausal, but not premenopausal Korean women in California. 

A study published on March 5, 2012 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine offered evidence that drinking milk in large quantity as recommended by pediatricians does not help reduce risk of stress fractures.

So why drinking milk does not make your bone stronger?

Diane Feskanich, ScD of  Harvard Medical School and colleagues reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that  "Milk is a good source of both calcium and vitamin D, yet fortified milk also contains significant amounts of vitamin A, which has been associated with an increased risk of hip fracture."

Feskanich et al. also found that postmenopausal women drinking milk even in a dose of as much as 600 ml per day did not decrease risk of hip fracture.

One thing everyone can do is have an adequate intake of vitamin D as many studies have found that high intake of vitamin D is associated with reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

The best calcium soruce is a diet with high amounts of plant-based foods including collard greens, bok choy, beans and dietary supplements that contain calcium and vitamin D.

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