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Osteoarthritis Health Center

Drinking Milk May Slow Knee Arthritis in Women

Same effect was not seen in men, and high cheese intake was tied to poorer knee health
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Milk may be a useful weapon against arthritis of the knee for women, but the same can't be said for yogurt or cheese, a new study says.

The more low-fat or fat-free milk women drank, the slower the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee, according to the study funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Milk consumption did not show the same benefit for men, however.

Researchers led by Dr. Bing Lu of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston also found that eating higher amounts of cheese had the opposite effect, speeding the progression of knee arthritis in women.

Taking in higher amounts of yogurt had no effect on knee arthritis in either women or men, the study found.

Osteoarthritis is the leading form of arthritis and affects nearly 27 million Americans aged 25 and older, the researchers noted, and knee arthritis tends to be more common and severe in women.

The study, published April 7 in Arthritis Care & Research, "is the largest study to investigate the impact of dairy intake in the progression of knee osteoarthritis," Lu said in a journal news release. He believes that, based on these and other findings, "milk consumption plays an important role in bone health."

The new study involved 1,260 women and almost 900 men with knee arthritis who provided information about their dietary habits. Their knees were assessed at the start of the study and again 12, 24, 36 and 48 months later.

While the study found an association between milk intake and knee health, it could not prove cause-and effect.

"Our findings indicate that women who frequently drink milk may reduce the progression of osteoarthritis. Further study of milk intake and delay in osteoarthritis progression are needed," Lu concluded in the news release.

Two experts in nutrition believe milk may have a role to play in maintaining healthy knees.

"Certainly more research is needed, but it would be reasonable to encourage women with osteoarthritis to consider low-fat and fat-free milk as one more tool to combat the progression of [the disease]," said Christine Santori, a registered dietitian and program manager of the Center for Weight Management at Syosset Hospital in Syosset, N.Y.

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