Switching to reduced-fat milk could slow down aging and help you live longer, according to a new study.
The study revealed that every 1 percent increase in milk fat consumed — drinking 2 percent vs. 1 percent milk — translated to more than four years in additional biological aging.
“It was surprising how strong the difference was,” the study’s lead author, professor Larry Tucker from Brigham Young University said.
“If you’re going to drink high-fat milk, you should be aware that doing so is predictive of or related to some significant consequences.”
The research, published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, analyzed the genes of almost 6,000 US adults.
Researchers worked out the age of DNA by looking at the length of telomeres, a compound in human chromosomes that get shorter with age.
They believe that the saturated fat in high-fat milk puts stress on a person’s cells, which can cause damage and contribute to the death of tissues in the body.
The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey as well as carrying out questionnaires on 5,834 people.
Nearly half of the people in the study consumed milk daily and another quarter consumed milk at least weekly.
Just under a third consumed whole milk and another 30 percent reported drinking 2 percent milk. Ten percent reported consuming 1 percent milk and 17 percent drank nonfat milk.
About 13 percent did not drink cow’s milk at all.
Surprisingly, the study also found that people who didn’t drink any milk had shorter telomeres than adults who consumed low-fat milk, meaning they also aged quicker than skimmed milk drinkers.
Researchers said for every one percent increase in milk fat consumed, telomeres were 69 base pairs shorter in the adults studied — which works out as the equivalent of four additional years of biological aging.
Even more significantly, when the study analyzed the extremes of milk drinkers, they discovered that adults who consumed whole milk had telomeres that were 145 molecules shorter than non-fat milk drinkers.
That’s the equivalent of additional years of biological aging, they said.
Milk is made up of about two-thirds of saturated fat, which is thought to trigger inflammation in the body and increase oxidative stress on cells.
“It appears that the milk fat and cellular aging association identified in this investigation was probably due, in part, to increased inflammation and oxidative stress caused by increased consumption of saturated fat,” the authors wrote.
Tucker said the results prove that milk is perhaps the “most controversial food in our country.”
“If someone asked me to put together a presentation on the value of drinking milk, I could put together a one-hour presentation that would knock your socks off. You’d think, ‘Whoa, everybody should be drinking more milk,’” he said.
“If someone said do the opposite, I could also do that. At the very least, the findings of this study are definitely worth pondering. Maybe there’s something here that requires a little more attention.”
However, Tucker said the findings support current dietary guidelines that encourage adults to consume low-fat milk and not high-fat milk, as part of a healthy diet.
“It’s not a bad thing to drink milk. You should just be more aware of what type of milk you are drinking,” he said.
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