A study in Ireland has shown that older people who eat more yogurt have better bone health and a significantly reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin, in collaboration with St James’s Hospital Dublin and co-investigators from Nutrition at Ulster University, Coleraine, investigated the association of yogurt intake with bone mineral density (BMD), bone biomarkers and physical function in 4,310 Irish adults from the Trinity, Ulster, Department of Agriculture ageing cohort study (TUDA).
They found that total hip and femoral neck BMD measures in women were 3.1-3.9% higher among those with the highest yogurt intakes compared to the lowest, and improvements were observed in some of the physical function measures (6.7% better). In men, the biomarker of bone breakdown was 9.5% lower in those with the highest yogurt intakes compared to the lowest — indicating reduced bone turnover.
To determine risk factors for being diagnosed as osteoporotic, the research team analysed a wide range of factors such as BMI, kidney function, physical activity, servings of milk or cheese, and calcium or vitamin D supplements as well as traditional risk factors for bone health such as smoking, inactivity and alcohol.
After adjusting for all these factors, each unit increase in yogurt intake in women was associated with a 31% lower risk of osteopenia and a 39% lower risk of osteoporosis. In men, a 52% lower risk of osteoporosis was found.
Vitamin D supplements were also associated with significantly reduced risks both in men and women, the researchers said.
Lead author of the study and research fellow at the Centre for Medical Gerontology at Trinity, Dr Eamon Laird, commented: “Yogurt is a rich source of different bone promoting nutrients and thus our findings in some ways are not surprising. The data suggest that improving yogurt intakes could be a strategy for maintaining bone health but it needs verification through future research as it is observational.”
Dr Miriam Casey, senior investigator of the study and consultant physician at St James’s Hospital Dublin, added: “The results demonstrate a significant association of bone health and frailty with a relatively simple and cheap food product. What is now needed is verification of these observations from randomised controlled trials as we still don’t understand the exact mechanisms which could be due to the benefits of micro-biota or the macro and micro nutrient composition of the yogurt.”
The findings of the study have been published in the journal Osteoporosis International.