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Dairy products not ‘equally beneficial’ for bones - US research

By Mark Astley , 04-Feb-2013

Not all dairy products are equally beneficial in promoting bone strength, US researchers have claimed.

Researchers at the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife – an affiliate of Harvard Medical School – examined the relation between dairy product consumption and the bone mineral density (BMD) of specific parts of the skeleton.

The study, Milk and yogurt consumption are linked with higher bone mineral density but not with hip fracture: the Framingham Offspring Study, discovered an association between fluid dairy intake – specifically milk and yogurt - and higher BMD in the hip.

No positive association was, however, made between fluid dairy consumption and spine BMD.

Cream – and cream products such as ice cream – may also have an adverse effect on BMD, the researchers found.

According to the study, these results suggest that “not all dairy products are equally beneficial for the skeleton.”

Not ‘equally beneficial’ for the skeleton

The research team at IFAR based their finding on food frequency questionnaire data collected from 3,212 participants of the Framingham Offspring Study.

They then compared the participants’ dairy intake with BMD measurements.

Milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, most dairy (total dairy without cream), and fluid dairy (milk and yogurt) intake was measured against femoral neck (FN), trochanter (TR), and spine BMD, and incidents of hip fracture.

The comparison revealed the benefits of milk and yogurt versus cream.

“Most dairy intake was positively associated with hip and spine BMD,” said the study.

“Intake of fluid dairy and milk was related with hip but not spine BMD. Yogurt intake was associated with TR-BMD alone. Cheese and cream intakes were not associated with BMD.”

“In this study, fluid dairy intake, specifically milk, and yogurt intake were associated with hip but not spine bone mineral density (BMD), while cream may aversely influence BMD, suggesting that not all dairy products are equally beneficial for the skeleton,” it added.

Reduced bone fracture association?

Commenting on the findings, Shivani Sahni – lead author of the study – said that more work is needed to better examine the positive association between dairy consumption and bone fractures.

“Dairy foods provide several important nutrients that are beneficial for bone health,” said Sahni.

“However, cream its products such as ice cream have lower levels of fat and sugar. In this study, 2.5 – 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,” he added.

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