Participants who ate a median amount of 252g of dairy a day had an 11 and seven per cent lower risk of hypertension and diabetes respectivel.
These findings came from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which started out in 1993 and covered some 63,000 Chinese participants who are now 45 to 74 years old.
Researchers followed up with the participants in phases, over a period of 10 years. They focused on only one racial group in order to standardise the study methodology, as this reduced dietary differences that arise from cultural factors.
However, the health benefits are applicable to all racial groups and ages, said Prof Koh Woon Puay, who led the study.
But the study does not specify which type of milk – such as low-fat and fresh milk – is the best in terms of its health benefits.
Similar studies have been conducted in other countries, but The Straits Times understands that this is the first large-scale local study on the health benefits of milk.
The study, which was published this year, also found that, on the whole, Asians drink less milk than people from other countries. For example, Chinese nationals drank approximately 20 litres of milk per capita in 2013, a far cry from the 125 litres per capita consumed by the Finnish.
Said Prof Koh: “Sometimes, there’s a misconception that the lactose intolerance gene is more common in Asians, but there has been no solid evidence to support this belief.
“Asians also tend to consume less milk than Westerners due to differences in cuisines. Bread, which contains butter, is common in many European countries whereas our staple here is rice.”