Dairy’s bone-building legacy continues to strengthen.

Generations of consumers have grown up rightfully following the science-backed recommendation that consuming milk and other dairy foods leads to better bone health. Numerous health professional organizations have recognized the importance of dairy foods and their nutrients like calcium and vitamin D for bone health, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, National Institutes of Health, National Osteoporosis Foundation and Food and Drug Administration.

But this is no reason to rest on our laurels as consumer expectations of the foods they choose continue to evolve in an era of cluttered and mixed messages. We know, for example, through checkoff-led consumer insight work that more people are becoming interested in bone health and seeking food-first options.

These are some of the reasons why the National Dairy Council funded two research efforts that add to the body of evidence further supporting dairy’s benefits related to bone health. Read on for an overview of each.

Fewer breaks and fractures
Fragility fractures are common in the U.S., with an estimated 1.5 million new cases every year. New research suggests eating dairy foods each day can be a powerful strategy to reduce fracture risk. More than 103,000 women (ages 30 to 55) from the Nurses’ Health Study who ate at least two servings of total dairy foods (milk, cheese, and/or yogurt) daily were less likely to break their wrist, hip, or back. Milk consumption alone showed similar benefits, and fracture risk continued to decline with each additional serving of milk or total dairy foods. Interestingly, the consumption of non-dairy sources of calcium, vitamin D, or protein was not independently associated with improved fracture risk. The findings not only underscore the role dairy foods play in bone health throughout the lifespan, but also suggest dairy foods’ health benefits cannot be explained by their nutrition content alone.

Research conducted in Australia suggests eating dairy foods can help support overall quality of life as people age. Providing older adults in long-term care facilities with four servings of dairy foods per day, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, not only led to fewer bone fractures and falls but significant healthcare cost savings, too. Avoiding additional care needs, such as ambulance support, hospital care, and rehabilitation time, led to a savings of nearly $9,000 (Australian dollars) per fracture averted. If this dietary intervention were scaled to the national level, researchers estimated it would yield an annual savings in healthcare costs of almost AU$67 million. Given Australia is socioeconomically similar to the U.S., Americans could reasonably expect to see comparable healthcare savings. The findings underscore just how impactful good nutrition can be when it comes to both healthy aging and economic well-being.

These results will be used by our National Dairy Council team when we speak with health and wellness professionals across the country. Our farmer-funded research is respected and provides science-backed solutions these practitioners are seeking.

Just as important, these results are shared by the checkoff with consumers, who more and more are seeking “food as medicine” approaches. We’re excited about the opportunity to show that incorporating dairy into their diet is not only good for their bones but their budget.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
January 1, 2024
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