Bone health

Dairy foods may bring you a step closer to a stronger old age

You might be looking forward to a long and well-deserved retirement, but where’s the fun if you become frail and unable to enjoy doing the things you love? Maybe the answer lies partly in what you eat. This latest study strengthens the large body of evidence suggesting that consuming dairy products every day helps to improve bone health in the elderly.

Although some loss of bone is normal as we get older, some people lose bone density at an abnormally fast rate because of osteoporosis, and so have an increased risk of broken bones. But there are steps we can take to strengthen our bones and reduce the risk of fractures in later life.

Dairy products contain lots of calcium so you’d expect that eating more of these foods would be good for your bones. However, this has been difficult to prove. In fact, a Swedish study suggested that increasing milk intake may lead to higher death rates and fracture rates in older adults. The same study found that eating fermented dairy products such as soured milk and yogurt was associated with lower death and fracture rates. So, how do we know what to believe?

Putting the spotlight on bone structure and density

The authors of this article carried out a separate study in physically active, 70-year-old Swedish men and women to look at the effect of dairy products on bones, and to see whether there were indeed differences between dairy types.

Bone scans were done to measure bone mineral density and also to look at the internal structure of long bones in the forearm and lower leg (radius and tibia). These assessments of bone strength were then compared across groups of people consuming different types of dairy products or none at all.

Milk and yogurt consumption is associated with strengthen bones

Although the effects weren’t very large, half a glass of milk or a pot of yogurt daily were associated with better bone strength. This association wasn’t affected much by the amount of cheese being eaten. The authors didn’t look at fracture rates so it’s not possible to say whether the better bone strength relates to a reduction in fractures.

Whereas the previous Swedish study reported differences in fracture rates for milk and fermented dairy products, this study did not show a difference in bone strength measurements between these foods.

‘….we found a weak positive association between dairy product consumption and some of the bone sites, regardless of the type of dairy product consumed.’ – Hallkvist et al, 2018.

The authors didn’t discover any negative effects of dairy products on bone health in this elderly population. This is consistent with many previous studies, providing reassuring evidence for eating more dairy products to improve our long-term bone health.

The authors conclude that further studies are needed to see if there are similar associations between intake of dairy foods and bone health in other age groups.

Find out more: read the original article.

Source: Hallkvist OM, Johansson J, Nordström A et al. Dairy product intake and bone properties in 70-year-old men and women. Arch Osteoporos. 2018;13:9.


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