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Study: Milk Intake May Delay Knee OA in Women

No effect seen in men

A new study has found that women who frequently consume fat-free or low-fat milk may delay the progression of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The findings, published in Arthritis Care & Research, indicate that women who ate cheese saw an increase in knee OA progression. Yogurt did not affect OA progression in men or women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OA affects nearly 27 million Americans aged 25 years and older, with knee OA being more prevalent and severe in women. While medical evidence points to obesity, joint injury, and repetitive use from some sports as risk factors for incident knee OA, risks associated with OA progression remain unclear.

For the new study, the authors recruited 2,148 participants (3,064 knees) with knee OA. At the start of the study, dietary data were collected, and joint-space width was measured by x-ray to evaluate OA progression. The subjects included 888 men and 1,260 women, who were followed at 12, 24, 36, and 48 months.

As the intake of milk increased from none to fewer than three, four to six, and more than seven 8-ounce glasses per week, the joint-space width in women decreased by 0.38 mm, 0.29 mm, and 0.26 mm, respectively. The results persisted even after the authors adjusted for disease severity, body mass index (BMI), and dietary factors. No association between milk consumption and a decrease in joint-space width was reported in men.

“Our findings indicate that women who frequently drink milk may reduce the progression of OA,” said lead author Bing Lu, MD, DrPH. “Further study of milk intake and delay in OA progression are needed.”

In a related editorial published in Arthritis Care & Research, Shivani Sahni, PhD, and Robert McLean, DSc, MPH, at the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research, agree: “With the aging population and increase in life expectancy, there is an urgent need for effective methods to manage OA. The study by Lu et al. provides the first evidence that increasing fat-free or low-fat milk consumption may slow the progression of OA among women, who are particularly burdened by OA of the knee, which can lead to functional disability.”

Source: Wiley; April 7, 2014.

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