J Epidemiol Community Health 59:502-505 doi:10.1136/jech.2004.027904
  • Research report

Milk consumption, stroke, and heart attack risk: evidence from the Caerphilly cohort of older men

  1. P C Elwood1,
  2. J J Strain2,
  3. Paula J Robson2,
  4. Ann M Fehily3,
  5. Janie Hughes4,
  6. Janet Pickering4,
  7. Andy Ness5
  1. 1Visiting Professor, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland
  2. 2Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), University of Ulster
  3. 3Consultant Nutritionist
  4. 4University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
  5. 5University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor P Elwood
 Llandough Hospital, Cardiff CF64 2XW, UK;
  • Accepted 22 October 2004


Objective: To examine associations between milk consumption and incident heart disease and stroke.

Design: A representative population sample of men was asked to weigh and record their food intake for seven days. The total consumption of milk was obtained from these records. Details of all deaths and vascular events were collected during the following 20 years. Incident ischaemic strokes and heart disease events were diagnosed by standard criteria.

Setting: The Caerphilly cohort, a representative population sample of men in South Wales, aged 45–59 when first seen in 1979–83.

Participants: A representative 3:10 subsample of the men in the cohort.

Main results: 665 men (87% of those approached) returned satisfactory seven day diet diaries. After adjustment, the relative odds of an event in the men whose milk consumption was the median or higher, relative to those with lower intakes of milk, were 0.52 (0.27 to 0.99) for an ischaemic stroke and 0.88 (0.56 to 1.40) for an ischaemic heart disease event. Deaths from all causes were similar in the two milk consumption groups (relative odds 1.08; 0.74 to 1.58).

Conclusions: These results give no convincing evidence of an increased risk of vascular disease from milk drinking. Rather, the subjects who drank more than the median amount of milk had a reduced risk of an ischaemic stroke, and possibly a reduced risk of an ischaemic heart disease event. These conclusions are in agreement with the results of a previously reported overview of 10 large, long term cohort studies based on food frequency intake records.


  • Funding: The Medical Research Council UK and the University of Ulster UK. Janet Pickering and Janie Hughes are supported by the UK Food Standards Agency.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

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