30 Oct 2014

Fonterra rejects milk ill-health link

5:13 pm on 30 October 2014

A study linking drinking large amounts of milk to an early death needs to be viewed in the context of a large body of research that says milk is good for health, Fonterra says.

Swedish researchers say they have found drinking a lot of milk can actually double a person's risk of dying, due to a type of sugar found in the beverage.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, examined the dietary habits of 61,400 women in 1987-1990 and 45,300 men in 1997 and then monitored their health for many years afterwards.

Participants were asked how frequently they consumed common foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese over a one-year period.

Researchers then tracked how many people developed fractures and how many died in subsequent years.

In the 20-year follow-up period in which the women were monitored, those who drank more than three glasses, or 680ml, of milk a day were more likely to develop fractures than those who had consumed less.

The high-intake group also had a higher risk of death.

But a health research manager at Fonterra, Angela Rowan, said the researchers themselves acknowledge that more work is needed in the area. She said she doubted that the study would change people's habits.

"Consumers are a little bit smarter than that - they know that milk's a good food. So I'd be really surprised if consumers suddenly stopped drinking milk just because of this one study."

Ms Rowan said most studies show it is advisable to drink between two and four glasses of milk a day to satisfy the recommended daily calcium intake.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs