Have dairy products been unfairly maligned?

When I was a primary school kid in the early 1970s, society was strong on the importance of dairy products. Milk was championed as being vital for healthy bones and a gleaming smile. So strong was the message that primary schools across Australia had daily deliveries of milk. A small bottle was made available to each and every kid.

The importance of dairy was also impressed upon us through ads aimed at kids, teenagers and adults. Then, some time around the early 1990s, the landscape changed. There were concerns about the fat content of milk and cream. On top of that, the issue of lactose intolerance came to public prominence.

Before long, the idea of dairy products being critical to a healthy diet lost its impact. Alternatives were promoted. Soy and almond milk were among those championed, and very successfully, too.

But did we go too far as a society? New research suggests there is at least one very important component of dairy products that is vital to healthy ageing – calcium. Without enough of it, our chances of bone fracture increase dramatically.

The Fractures Trial

Austin Health and the University of Melbourne recently teamed up to run what Dairy Australia calls ‘The Fractures Trial’. The trial looked at how more dairy in the diet of elderly aged care residents improved various facets of health. These included the health of bones, the heart and muscles.

A randomised controlled trial involving 60 aged care institutions and over 7000 residents produced some pretty conclusive results. Residents at 30 of the institutions had their daily intake of dairy products increased from two serves to 3.5 serves. (Typically these serves were milk, cheese, yoghurt and skim milk powder.) Residents at the other facilities maintained their regular dairy intake of two serves per day.

The trial’s results indicated a 33 per cent reduction in all fractures for the group with the higher dairy intake. When it came to hip fractures, the results were even more stunning – a 46 per cent reduction. The results also recorded an 11 per cent reduction in falls, and improved calcium and protein intakes for residents.

Dr Sandra Iuliano, the trial’s principal investigator and lead author of the study paper, was excited by the results. Dr Iuliano said: “Improving the dairy content of the menu from around two serves to three-and-a-half serves resulted in clinically significant reductions in falls, fractures and in particular, hip fractures.”

A new lease on life for (and with) dairy products

Those of you who have seen an elderly loved one experience a hip fracture know how debilitating it can be. For many it has precipitated the onset of a rapid decline in overall health.

Anything that can reduce the risk of such fractures is very welcome. The trial results indicate an increase in serves of dairy products is clearly an effective way of reducing that risk.

That does not mean consuming more dairy products is the only way of reducing the risk, though. There are alternatives that can provide the required amounts of calcium and protein. This is important, of course, for those who have an intolerance to dairy. 

However, it does show that dairy products can play a vital role in ensuring we do get enough of what keeps our bones and muscles in good shape.

Dairy’s time came and went in my youth, but perhaps its time is back once more. And for your ageing bones, that is a good thing.

Were you put off dairy products by some of the negative publicity in the 1990s and 2000s? Would you consider adding more to your diet now? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Blood pressure meds increase fall risk, study shows

Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -