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Objective

Milk consumption has long been recognized for its important role in bone health, but its role in the progression of knee osteoarthritis (OA) is unclear. We examined the prospective association of milk consumption with radiographic progression of knee OA.

Methods

In the Osteoarthritis Initiative, 2,148 participants (3,064 knees) with radiographic knee OA and dietary data at baseline were followed up to 12, 24, 36, and 48 months. Milk consumption was assessed with a Block Brief Food Frequency Questionnaire completed at baseline. To evaluate progression of OA, we used quantitative joint space width (JSW) between the medial femur and tibia of the knee based on plain radiographs. The multivariate linear models for repeated measures were used to test the independent association between milk intake and the decrease in JSW over time, while adjusting for baseline disease severity, body mass index, dietary factors, and other potential confounders.

Results

We observed a significant dose-response relationship between baseline milk intake and adjusted mean decrease of JSW in women (P = 0.014 for trend). With increasing levels of milk intake (none, ≤3, 4–6, and ≥7 glasses/week), the mean decreases of JSW were 0.38 mm, 0.29 mm, 0.29 mm, and 0.26 mm, respectively. In men, we observed no significant association between milk consumption and the decreases of JSW.

Conclusion

Our results suggest that frequent milk consumption may be associated with reduced OA progression in women. Replication of these novel findings in other prospective studies demonstrating the increase in milk consumption leads to delay in knee OA progression are needed.