Maybe milk isn't so good for you after all. Cheese, on the other hand...

Image: Salma Hayek in a Got Milk? commercial

If there’s one childhood nutrition lesson that’s easy to remember, it’s that milk = healthy. More specifically, that all the calcium in milk is good for your bones and teeth, which is true.

Before you dash off to buy a thickshake bigger than your head, hold up: new research out this week suggests milk mightn’t be so great for us after all. At least in large amounts.

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A major Swedish study, which surveyed more than 100,000 woman and men over a period of 11-20 years, has found a positive correlation (note: not causation) between high milk consumption and early death in both sexes – although it was more pronounced among women.

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It also revealed women who knocked back more than three glasses of the white stuff each day experienced a higher incidence of bone fracture than those who drank less.

“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, and those who had a high milk intake also had a 50% higher risk of hip fracture,” Prof Karl Michaelsson, lead researcher at Uppsala University told the BBC.

The researchers believe a possible explanation for the correlation could be the inflammatory effects milk can have on the body. This is caused by a substance called D-galactose, which the body produces as it processes high levels of lactose.

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This is all a bit disheartening, but we do have a morsel, or more appropriately, a wedge of news that will please cheese fiends. Fermented dairy products like cheese and yoghurt fared far better in the study, correlating with a 10-15% reduction in the incidence of bone fractures and mortality among women. Hurrah! Camembert for everyone!

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For men the reduction wasn't as significant, but still - happy days.

Now, we're not saying milk should be banished from your diet for evermore - it is an important source of calcium, after all, and we'd never tell you to cut a food out of your diet completely. If you're curious, Dairy Australia recommends adults consume 3 servings of dairy foods a day, which could include a glass (250mL) of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt, or a 40g piece of cheese.

Are you a big milk drinker?

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