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Sorry, Mom, milk may not make our bones stronger, after all

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

This common beverage is associated with a shorter life

Milk: It does a body good? Eh, not really, says a new study that challenges the old slogan for dairy.

As babies, we all started out with a taste for milk and as we got older most of us moved straight from mama milk to moo juice, using a tall glass of the frosty beverage to dunk our cookies in or pour over our cereal or squirt out our noses when we laughed. And no wonder we were all such addicts — up until 1992, dairy was considered one of the four food groups, and even now the USDA's current nutrition guide, Choose My Plate, includes it as one of five food groups with its own cute little glass-shaped cutout next to the plate. We've been taught since we were wee babes that drinking cow's milk will "build strong bones" and help us get our daily calcium needs. It appears we may have been told wrong.

Doubly wrong, in fact: Research published in the British Medical Journal found that women who drink more than three glasses of milk a day have a higher risk of fractures and, the worst part, die younger than woman who drink less than one glass of milk per day. The scientists tracked over 100,000 Swedes over 20 years, recording their daily food intake and recording any incidences of fractures, illness and death. It seems the more dairy that was imbibed, the higher the levels of inflammation and oxidative stress — both risk factors for an early ticket off this mortal coil.

But it's not all bad news for dairy lovers! According to the study, people who ate fermented dairy that was low in lactose, like yogurt and cheese, got all those glorious benefits of stronger bones and longer lives. (And let's not forget the benefit that is simply getting to eat delicious cheese!)

"Our results may question the validity of recommendations to consume high amounts of milk to prevent fragility fractures," the researchers reported, disappointing actors everywhere who no longer have a reason to pose with a ridiculous milk mustache. (Although, Heidi Klum will remain the hottest milkmaid ever.) They add that more research needs to be done to confirm their findings. But, in the meantime, try to get your dairy from fermented sources and stick to one glass a day or less of the white, creamy stuff.

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