People aged 85 and older are projected to more than double to 14.4 million by 2040, according to the U.S. Census. There also are about 73 million baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – in the U.S.
While much of the dairy checkoff’s focus is on the next-generation consumer – Gen Z and millennials, who represent the 10-to-39 age range – we cannot overlook the need to make sure older adults understand the important role dairy still plays in their health plan.
That’s why we’re so excited to have helped fund research that supports National Dairy Council’s (NDC) longstanding message that dairy matters at every age. Our latest work shows that boosting consumption of foods rich in calcium and protein, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, helps reduce falls and fractures in older adults living in residential care.
The research is especially significant because it occurred globally through the International Dairy Research Consortium for Nutrition and Health formed in 2011. NDC is in partnership with similar dairy organizations from France, Australia, Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Our collective goal is to advance research on the nutrition and health benefits of dairy.
To date, few clinical trials studies have examined the impact of a nutritional approach to reducing fracture risk in older adults, especially those who live in aged-care facilities.
Our work was significant because as we age, we become more vulnerable to the loss of muscle and skeletal mass, increased bone fragility and frailty that increases the risk of falls and fractures. We also know that consuming key bone-related nutrients found in dairy is low in older adults, and inadequate calcium and protein consumption can lead to osteoporosis and loss of lean muscle mass.
The two-year study encompassed 60 residential aged-care facilities housing 7,196 older adults (mean age, 86) in Australia. This was one of, if not, the largest clinical trials looking at the impact of elevating dairy intake on bone health and fractures ever conducted. The results strengthen the available body of proof on dairy and bone health with clinical evidence showing that increased dairy consumption directly contributed to a reduction in falls and fractures among an aging population. The researchers say it has “widespread implications as a public health measure for fracture prevention.”
The study was published in the reputable British Medical Journal and for NDC and the other global dairy organizations, we have yet another strong proof point of dairy’s benefits that we can carry forward. It will help us to continue to dispel some of the myths that dairy isn’t essential for bone health in adults.
It also offers additional evidence for numerous U.S. health professional organizations that already recognize the importance of dairy foods and calcium on a lifetime of bone health, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, National Institutes of Health, National Osteoporosis Foundation and Food and Drug Administration.
The process of collaborating with our dairy colleagues in other countries was rewarding, and we look forward to doing more work together, which helps maximize the checkoff investment.
Whether it’s here in the U.S. or abroad, we share a common belief: consuming three servings of dairy every day is an effective and affordable way to maintain health, at any age.