Yogurt found to boost mineral density in bones

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14 Sep 2017 --- Yogurt is known as a rich source of calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, protein, branched-chain amino acids, bioactive peptides and probiotics – and all of these might contribute to musculoskeletal health, a study recently published in the Osteoporosis International journal has noted. 

Results of the 12-year Framingham Offspring Study showed that yogurt intake was associated with higher bone mineral density (BMD) at the hip and had a weak protective effect against hip fracture. In a 2016 study, published by Laird et al., researchers further investigated the associations between yogurt intake and BMD, bone biomarkers and physical function.

“The Irish National guidelines state we should be having three portions of dairy per day,” says study lead author Dr. Eamon Laird. “There are no recommendations for specific dairy products. Data from our study suggest that increasing the consumption of yogurt (from zero to once per day) could have significant benefits for bone mineral density and osteoporosis prevention.”

Yogurt shows clear benefits
Data for this study came from 4,310 community-dwelling Irish adults, aged 60 or older, participating in the Trinity, Ulster Department of Agriculture aging cohort study (TUDA). Based on results from a food frequency questionnaire, high yogurt consumption was defined as more than one serving per day, low consumption was defined as two to three servings per week and non-consumption was defined as less than one serving per week.

In women who were not taking medications for BMD, total hip BMD was 3.1 percent higher and femoral BMD was 3.9 percent higher in high yogurt consumers than in non-consumers. Women with the highest yogurt consumption also had significantly lower scores on the Timed Up and Go (TUG) mobility test, indicating better functional mobility, muscle strength and balance.

In men, vertebral BMD was 4.1 percent higher in low yogurt consumers than in non-consumers. Men with the highest yogurt consumption also had mean TRAP 5b concentrations that were 9.5 percent lower, indicating positive bone balance. TRAP 5b is considered a more sensitive biomarker of bone resorption than the collagen breakdown product CTX.

Daily yogurt intake was a significant predictor of bone health, with each unit increase of one serving per week associated with a 31 percent lower risk of having osteopenia and a 39 percent lower risk of having osteoporosis in women. It was associated with a 52 percent lower risk of osteoporosis in men.

“Limitations of the study included: we did not have exact portion size or the brand of yogurt consumed while this population was from older adults. We would need to replicate this again both in the older population and other population sub-groups. Again we have to be mindful that some yogurts can contain significant amounts of sugar so it is something to be mindful of,” notes Laird.

This large cross-sectional study provides evidence that yogurt consumption is associated with higher BMD and better physical function in older adults. The results suggest that improving yogurt intakes could be a valuable public health strategy for maintaining bone health in older adults. It is not known whether the results represent a causal relationship or if these findings will translate into a lower risk of fracture over time.

“We really need randomized controlled trials to investigate what the component in yogurt that is bone promoting is, how much we should be consuming and what population groups would benefit the most,” Laird says of future studies into yogurt’s benefits.

Laird’s also gives further advice for reducing the risk of osteoporosis: “Older adults can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by easy lifestyle choices: increase daily weight bearing activity (what they can safely manage), don't smoke, alcohol in moderation, increasing vitamin D and calcium intakes (fish, dairy, fortified foods) and having a healthy, balanced diet.”

“Greater yogurt consumption is associated with increased bone mineral density and physical function in older adults” is published in Osteoporosis International.

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