Milk is a good source of calcium and children who eat plenty of dairy foods such as milk and cheese can expect to live longer, a study suggests. Some 4 374 UK children from a 1930s study have been tracked and traced, over 65 years later, by researchers in Bristol and Queensland.
They discovered that those who had had high dairy and calcium intakes as children had been protected against stroke and other causes of death, the medical journal “Heart” reported in July this year. Despite dairy containing both fat and cholesterol, high consumption did not in fact raise heart disease risk at all.
The study looked at family diets and found higher intakes of both calcium and dairy, predominantly from milk, cut mortality by a quarter. A higher daily intake of calcium of at least 400 mg as found in just over half a pint of milk, cut the chance of dying from stroke by as much as 60%. These beneficial effects were seen at estimated intake levels similar to those currently recommended by experts.
Three daily servings of dairy foods – for example, a 200ml glass of milk, a pot of yoghurt and a small piece of cheese – will provide all the calcium most people need each day. Other factors may be playing a part, but there is certainly evidence that high calcium intake is good for maintaining blood pressure at healthy levels, and prolonged high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke.
Dairy consumption may also influence heart and circulation health through a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), said the study authors from the UK’s University of Bristol and Australia’s Queensland Institute of Medical Research. In adults, high circulating levels of IGF-1 are linked with reduced cases of heart failure and heart disease deaths.