Concerns over the harmful effects of milk consumption on health are unwarranted, according to report published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health by a group of scientists from Bristol University. Moving far from the perception that milk and dairy consumption causes high cholesterol levels and coronary artery problems, the report says that milk actually protects consumers against poor health.

"People have been discouraged from drinking milk, but we cannot find a link between this and heart problems," commented report author Dr Andy Ness.

The reassurance comes after a 25-year research programme, in which scientists studied 5,700 Scottish men. The results showed that men who drank more than a third of a pint a day had an 8% lower chance of dying from heart disease than those who did not. 

Those who regularly consumed milk also had a 10% lower chance of death from cancer or a stroke.

Ness, a senior lecturer at Bristol University, commented: "We are not talking about people who are drinking pints and pints of milk, but a moderate consumption of about a third of a pint a day."

In the report, the scientists also revealed that drinking milk in childhood is some protection against poor health, as those who had consumed milk regularly at an early age tended to be healthier than those who had not.

From the British Heart Foundation, a spokesperson welcomed the report but commented that more research is necessary to make some solid conclusions from the conflicting research. They advised that while milk should be included in a healthy diet consumers should remember that low fat and skimmed milk is healthier than full fat milk.