Professor René Rizzoli et al constructed a model to quantify the potential effect of an additional intake of calcium from dairy foods on the risk of osteoporotic fractures.
They also related this to potentially avoided costs relating to the healthcare of hip fractures and of additional dairy consumption.
Separate analyses were done for The Netherlands, France, and Sweden, three countries with different levels of dairy products consumption.
The researchers noted differences between countries which may affect the occurrence of osteoporosis, such as lifestyle, the availability and quality of healthcare, climate, genetic predisposition and treatment pathways, costs of healthcare and of dairy food products.
Low dietary intake of calcium has been associated with decreased bone density and increased risk of osteoporosis, a disease where bone becomes less dense and prone to fracture.
Method and findings
They calculated the Population Attributive Fraction (PAF), which represents the percentage of all hip fractures that can be attributed to low calcium intake and then the absolute amount of hip fractures that potentially can be prevented with additional calcium intake.
A model was constructed that generated the number of hip fractures that potentially can be prevented with dairy foods intakes, and then calculated costs avoided, considering the healthcare costs of hip fractures and the costs of additional dairy foods, as well as the number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost due to hip fractures associated with low nutritional calcium intake.
The number of hip fractures that may potentially be prevented each year with additional dairy products was highest in France (2,023), followed by Sweden (455) and The Netherlands (132).
The yearly number of DALYs lost was 6,263 for France, 1,246 for Sweden, and 374 for The Netherlands, which equalled total costs that could be avoided of about €129m, €34m, and €6m, in the countries respectively.
The study focussed on middle-aged and older groups, aged 50 years and over and did not include other osteoporotic fractures due to the unavailability of sufficient data.
Nutrition economic impact
René Rizzoli, professor of Medicine and Head of the Division of Bone Disease at the University Hospitals of Geneva, said, "Despite the fact that the effects of foods on health are recognized, there are no accepted and proven methodologies to assess the health-economic impacts of foods on the general population.
"Our study likely underestimates the potential cost savings of increased dietary calcium in that it relies on existing figures for the senior population and does not take into account the long-term benefits to the younger generation.”
The research, supported by an unrestricted grant from Danone Research, was published in the journal Osteoporosis International.
“Future research should further collect longitudinal population data for documenting the net benefits of increasing dairy consumption on bone health and on the related utilization of healthcare resources,” the authors concluded.
Source: Osteoporosis International
Published online ahead of print: 10.1007/s00198-012-1998-6
“Dairy foods and Osteoporosis: An example of Assessing the Health–Economic Impact of Food Products”
Authors: F. J. B. Lötters, I. Lenoir-Wijnkoop, P. Fardellone, R. Rizzoli, E. Rocher and M. J. Poley