"Children whose family diet in the 1930s was high in calcium were at reduced risk of death from stroke. Furthermore, childhood diets rich in dairy or calcium were associated with lower all-cause mortality in adulthood," the researchers concluded.
But there is only so much we can learn from this observational study, Katz said.
"Dietary assessments were [done] in Britain before WWII, at which time low-fat and fat-free milk were all but nonexistent," Katz said "Thus, any benefits of dairy intake were likely mitigated by its high content of saturated fat."
Furthermore, "dairy intake was higher in households with higher socioeconomic status, which may itself account for a health benefit," he noted.
Studies using the American Heart Association-recommended DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet suggest there are health benefits from dairy intake, Katz said. But, "there are some concerns as well, such as a potential association [of high dairy intake] with increased risk of prostate cancer. Unfortunately, I don't think we can find a resolution to the persistent controversies about dairy foods from the current study."
Another expert, Dr. David J.A. Jenkins, a professor in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, noted that those who ate the most dairy also ate the most fruit and vegetables, so they had the healthiest diets overall.
"To put it all down to increased dairy products in young life seems to be a marker for those who had a more reasonable diet," he said. "If you have good nutrition in childhood it is important for longevity, but I would be wary about saying this was due to milk consumption," he said.
Another expert advocated dairy products for kids, but suggested sticking to low- or non-fat products.
All rights reserved