Debbie Nicholson

Milk and yogurt linked to greater bone density but ice cream falls short

Researchers from the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, investigated the links of milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, most dairy (dairy without cream) and fluid dairy (milk + yogurt) with bone mineral density (BMD). This new study suggests that not all dairy is alike in benefits for promoting bone strength.

For this new study, 3,212 participants filled out a food frequency questionnaire, (1992-1995) or 1995-1998) and were followed until 2005 for hip fractures. Age range for participants was 26 to 85 years, with the average age being 55, from the Framingham Offspring study.

Researchers compared participants' dairy intake with BMD measurement. The results revealed milk and yogurt consumption was linked with hip BMD but not spine while cream could negatively influence BMD. In their conclusion, the researchers write “not all dairy products are equally beneficial for the skeleton."

According to the study, selecting low-fat milk or yogurt over cream can increase intake of protein, calcium and vitamin D, while limiting intake of saturated fats.

Dr. Shivani Sahni, Ph.D., Research Assistant Scientist l, Musculoskeletal Research, IFAR and lead author of the study, states: "Dairy foods provide several important nutrients that are beneficial for bone health.”

"However, cream and its products such as ice cream have lower levels of these nutrients and have higher levels of fat and sugar. In this study, 2.5 to 3 servings of milk and yogurt intake per day were associated with better bone density. More research is needed to examine the role of cheese intake (some of which can be high in fat and sodium), and whether individual dairy foods have a significant impact in reducing fractures."

This study is an example of ongoing research aimed on the association between nutrition and bone health. Previous research suggest that dairy products contain more than one beneficial nutrient, and for this reason certain dairy products may contribute towards maintaining healthier bones.

According to The Dairy Council, “milk and dairy products contain many nutrients. Milk, cheese and yogurt contain beneficial nutrients in varying quantities, these nutrients include; calcium, magnesium, folate and zinc.

Research such as this new study supports the theory that proper nutrition can help fight osteoporosis

This study appears in the journal Archives of Osteoporosis.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation;

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones. It happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone or both. As a result, bones become weak and can break from a minor fall or, in serious cases, even from simple actions, like sneezing or bumping into furniture.

About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. About 34 million are at risk for the disease. Estimates suggest that about half of all women older than 50, and up to one in four men, will break a bone because of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is responsible for two million broken bones and $19 billion in related costs every year. By 2025, experts predict that osteoporosis will be responsible for approximately three million fractures and $25.3 billion in costs each year.

More information on osteoporosis can be viewed online at The National Osteoporosis Foundation.


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