A glass of milk a day could help stop women’s knees from creaking, claim researchers.
A new US study found women who frequently drink fat-free or low-fat milk may have less osteoarthritis in the knee.
But eating cheese increased the problem in women.
Drinking milk made little difference in men and eating yoghurt did not affect progression in men or women.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain and swelling of joints in the hand, hips, or knee.
Lead author Dr Bing Lu, from Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, said, “Milk consumption plays an important role in bone health. Our study is the largest study to investigate the impact of dairy intake in the progression of knee OA.” More than six million people in the UK have osteoarthritis in one or both knees including a fifth of people in their 50s and half of people aged over 80, according to the charity Arthritis Research UK. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of the join disease, is more common in women than in men and more than one million adults per year consult their GP due to the disease. When doctors assess the severity of osteoarthritis, they use imaging studies to quantify joint damage by measuring the space that exists between the bones of a joint. Narrowing joint space indicates cartilage loss and worsening osteoarthritis.
At the start of the study dietary data was collected and joint space width was measured using X-rays, says a report in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.
A total of 888 men and 1,260 women with knee arthritis took part who had follow-up checks up to four years later.
As the intake of milk increased per 8-ounce glass, the amount of joint damage in women fell. Although all the women experienced some narrowing of joint space, it was least evident in women drinking more milk. When women went from drinking no milk, to less than three glasses, from four to six glasses, and more than seven glasses per week, the joint space width in women decreased by 0.38mm, 0.29mm, 0.29mm and 0.26mm respectively.
There was a slight worsening of the condition among women eating cheese every day. Results persisted even after allowing for disease severity, body mass index (BMI) and dietary factors. Milk consumption improved knee joint health in men only at high intakes. “Our findings indicate that women who frequently drink milk may reduce the progression of OA,” said Dr Lu. “Further study of milk intake and delay in OA progression are needed.” He said it was unclear why milk helped women, it may be due to boosting calcium levels as women often have low intakes or as part of a healthy diet it could help combat obesity.
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