Yoghurt linked to stronger bones, lower risk of osteoporosis

8 May 2017

Image: Sea Wave/Shutterstock

A new study links yoghurt intake to healthier bones, with higher density and a significantly reduced risk of osteoporosis.

A major observational study looking at osteology in elderly people has found that a diet including regular yoghurt lends itself to healthier bones.

With thousands of subjects monitored, through bone mineral density and biomarkers, dairy in general was found to be beneficial.

But despite that strange wooden man singing,“Them bones, them bones need … calcium”, before children took a swig of milk, it appears that yoghurts might be the true key to a healthy skeleton.

The study – published in Osteoporosis International – was led by Trinity College Dublin (TCD), with St James’s Hospital and Ulster University also involved.

With 4,100 subjects in total, density measures in hip and femoral neck bone mineral in females were between 3.1pc and 3.9pc higher among those that regularly ate yoghurt. A general improvement in physical function was also observed.

Yoghurt leads to lower risk

Bone breakdown was observed to be slower in males with the highest intake of yoghurt, compared to those with the lowest intake.

Each unit increase in yoghurt intake in females was associated with a 31pc lower risk of osteopenia and a 39pc lower risk of osteoporosis. With males, the risk of osteoporosis is lowered by more than half (52pc).

Osteoporosis is a chronic condition associated with a reduction in bone strength and an increased risk of bone fracture. According to TCD, more than 300,000 people in Ireland are thought to suffer from the condition.

Image: Stasique/Shutterstock

Image: Stasique/Shutterstock

“Yoghurt is a rich source of different bone-promoting nutrients and thus, our findings in some ways are not surprising,” said TCD’s Dr Eamon Laird, lead author of the study and research fellow at the Centre for Medical Gerontology.

“The data suggests that improving yoghurt intakes could be a strategy for maintaining bone health but it needs verification through future research as it is observational.”

Of the major food groups, dairy foods are one of the richest sources of protein, calcium, magnesium and the B vitamins – these are all nutrients that contribute to bone health.

“The results demonstrate a significant association of bone health and frailty with a relatively simple and cheap food product,” said Dr Miriam Casey, senior investigator of the study and consultant physician at St James’s Hospital.

“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 microbiota or the macro and micro nutrient composition of the yoghurt.”

Get the oat

This isn’t the first study to find that easily available and affordable foods could help improve our health.

Scientists at a Cork hub have been pioneering investigations into gut bacteria (microbiome) for years now, consistently discovering fresh links between what we have in our belly and our overall health.

Recent research from the APC Microbiome Institute shows that microbiome is related to heart health and it benefits from oat beta glucan, the fibre found in regular bowls of porridge.

Image: Catalina M/Shutterstock

Image: Catalina M/Shutterstock

The study, published in BioMed Central, found that consumption of oat beta glucan not only lowered blood cholesterol in mice, but it also helped to keep body weight down and benefited the microbes living in the intestines (gut microbiota).

So, a bowl of porridge in the morning, and some yoghurt at lunch, might be the key to a healthy life.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic