Is there any link between consumption of dairy products and the progression of knee osteoarthritis (OA)? It seems that yoghurt plays no part in it but cheese may accelerate the process. On the other hand, frequent consumption of fat-free or low-fat milk could help delay knee OA progression, new research has established. However, this beneficial effect is observed only in women, the study report reveals.
The US research project was led by Dr Bing Lu from Boston-based Brigham & Women´s Hospital. As Lu pointed out, it is well known that milk consumption is an important contributor to bone health and his team has conducted the largest study into the impact of dairy consumption on knee OA progression. The findings have been published in the Arthritis Care & Research journal.
The study involved 2,148 participants in total, 1,260 of them women and 888 men. At the start of the investigation the researchers collected dietary data and measured joint space width by means of X-rays to assess OA progression. Follow-ups took place every year for four years.
There were no positive developments to report in the male group but the situation was different in the female sample. The researchers established a link between increase in milk consumption and the rate of decrease in joint space width. Narrowing joint space means loss of cartilage and signals OA progression. While all women experienced a decrease, it was smaller for those drinking more milk: joint space width was found to have narrowed by 0.38mm in women who did not drink any milk, 0.29mm in those consuming between three and six eight-ounce glasses of milk weekly and 0.26mm in women drinking seven or more glasses. These results were not affected by adjustments for disease severity, BMI and diet.