- A daily intake of milk can potentially lessen the risk of colorectal cancer, as shown by elaborate research from Europe and the United States, involving over 534,000 participants.
- Those consuming more than one eight-ounce glass of milk daily experienced a 15 percent reduction in risk, compared to people who had less than two glasses per week.
- The reduction in risk could be linked to the calcium in milk, which helps prevent overgrowth of cells in the intestinal tract – a possible cause for cancer.
- Despite these findings, research on calcium supplements’ role is still inconclusive.
- High calcium intake might also increase the risk of prostate cancer, so a balanced understanding of its effects is vital.
A substantial daily intake of milk can potentially lessen the risk of colorectal cancer, says a comprehensive aggregation of numerous studies. This significant body of research, collected from both Europe and the United States, broadly investigates the potential health benefits of milk.
This substantial collection has been put together by dedicated researchers from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health. It represents data gathered from 10 mature studies, involving more than 534,000 participants.
Broader Study, Broader Benefits
Led by Stephanie Smith-Warner, an assistant professor of nutritional epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, the research group has demonstrated the far-reaching implications of their work. “Our analysis provides a wider perspective on calcium and milk intake than previous studies, leading to greater statistical power,” Smith-Warner noted, adding that various individual study outcomes concerning the impact on cancer remained “ambiguous”.
The collected data demonstrated that participants who consumed more than one eight-ounce glass of milk daily experienced a 15 percent reduction in risk, compared to those who drank fewer than two glasses per week, according to Smith-Warner.
The Role of Calcium in Milk
Smith-Warner explained that the “modest” reduction in risk can be largely attributed to the calcium contained in milk. Calcium has the ability to limit the proliferation of cells lining the intestinal tract, thereby curbing possible overgrowth which may cause the cells to become cancerous.
On the other hand, Smith-Warner is cautious about drawing any conclusions regarding calcium supplements. She suggests, “the question of calcium supplements is still not resolved,” in spite of the fact that their research showed that individuals with the highest calcium intake – from food and supplements combined – had a 22 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Limitations and Future Scope
The results displayed a threshold effect, with the beneficial outcome reaching a plateau with a daily intake of 900mg of calcium. That’s roughly the calcium content in three glasses of milk. Another point of consideration is that some studies suggest a high intake of calcium may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the effects of calcium intake is essential.
Colorectal cancer continues to be the fourth most common form of malignancy in the United States. Estimates suggest that there will be 106,370 new cases of colon cancer and 40,570 new cases of rectal cancer this year, resulting in a combined total of 56,370 deaths.
Implications of the Study
The co-author of the research, Eunyoung Cho of Harvard Medical School and a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, believes that this could possibly be a stepping stone in reducing the risk of this disease. Yet, he also highlights that it is also important to consider other potential risk factors.
Doctors suggest a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, a balanced body weight, and a meat-reduced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Those who advocate vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, argue that meat and dairy products can potentially cause colon cancer due to their low-to-nil fiber content, an element shown to provide protection against the disease.
For a detailed understanding of colorectal cancer, you can explore the National Library of Medicine’s comprehensive database.