Not all dairy products are beneficial to bone health, US study

  • February 6, 2013
  • Kate Carey

New US research by the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School (HMS), has found that dairy intake is associated with higher bone mineral density in the hip, but not the spine.

The study reported milk and yogurt are associated with higher bone mineral density in the hip, but cream, on the other hand, may be associated with lower bone mineral density overall.

The study findings, published in the journal Archives of Osteoporosis, suggest that not all dairy products are equally beneficial in promoting bone strength.

Ph.D., Musculoskeletal Research Team at IFAR and lead author, Shivani Sahni, said that the study proved that cream and similar products such as ice cream have much lower levels of nutrients and higher levels of sugar and fat.

“In this study, 2.5 – 3 servings of milk and yogurt intake per day were associated with better bone density. [However] more research is needed to examine the role of cheese intake, some of which can be high in fat and sodium,” Dr Sahni said.

According to the study, nutrient composition varies among dairy foods. Choosing low-fat milk or yogurt over cream can increase intake of protein, calcium and vitamin D while limiting intake of saturated fats.

IFAR researchers based their findings on data collected from a food frequency questionnaire completed by 3,212 participants from the Framingham Offspring study. They then compared participants’ dairy intake with their bone mineral density measurement, which revealed the benefits of milk and yogurt versus cream in largely middle-aged men and women.

Past studies suggest that dairy products contain more than one beneficial nutrient, and for this reason certain dairy products may contribute towards maintaining healthier bones.

The research supports the general idea that proper nutrition can help combat osteoporosis and fractures.

Osteoporosis-related fractures in the United States were responsible for an estimated US $19 billion in health care costs in 2005, with that figure expected to increase to US $25 billion by 2025.

Not all dairy products are equally beneficial to bone health.


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