For years it has been common knowledge that dairy can play a positive role in supporting the health of your bones. Drinking milk for strong bones – with its high calcium and vitamin D content - has been a common fact preached throughout the years. But now, according to a new study, our understanding about particular types of dairy products and the link to bone health may have to be slightly revised. Researchers at the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School (HMS) collected data from a food-frequency questionnaire completed by 3,212 participants. They then compared participants' dairy intake with their bone mineral density (BMD) measurement, which revealed the varying benefits of milk and yogurt versus cream in middle-aged men and women.
The study showed nutrient composition and benefits varies among dairy foods. Choosing low-fat milk or yogurt over cream can increase intake of protein, calcium and vitamin D while limiting intake of saturated fats. Creams, because of their fat and sugar content, were associated with a lower total BMD. The study also showed that various dairy foods support different parts of the body and not others. They discovered that dairy intake - specifically milk and yogurt – was connected with higher BMD in the hip, but not the spine."Dairy foods provide several important nutrients that are beneficial for bone health," says lead author Shivani Sahni, Ph.D., Musculoskeletal Research Team, IFAR. "However, cream and its products such as ice cream have lower levels of these nutrients and have higher levels of fat and sugar." According to statistical data from the study 2.5 - 3 servings of milk and/or yogurt intake each day was associated with better bone density. And while the study shows that nutrient composition and its subsequent bone health support varies among specific types of dairy foods, choosing low-fat milk or yogurt over cream can increase your intake of protein, calcium, and vitamin D while limiting intake of saturated fats. Bone health and the proper vitamin intake is especially important. This type of research supports the notion that a proper nutrient rich diet can help protect your body against bone related issues, which is a major public health concern currently affecting over 44 million Americans. Due to dietary concerns like lactose intolerance or personal choice some people cannot get the nutrients directly from dairy that they need. They still can receive the proper vitamins and minerals from vitamin supplementation. A daily multi-vitamin, or a calcium and/or vitamin D supplement for those who are unable to digest certain dairy products can still provide the valued nutrition and protection needed to support BMD for strong and healthy bones.