Yoghurt is your secret weapon against brittle bones as you get older
Osteoporosis brings an increased risk of breaking bones and is a chronic condition which you are more likely to develop as you age
Men over 60 who eat a pot of yoghurt every day could reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis by 52 per cent, while older women could cut their risk by more than a third (39 per cent) compared to not eating any, suggests the study.
And researchers say the more yoghurt they eat, the greater the benefit for their bone health.
The largest ever observational study of dairy intake and bone frailty in older people has found that increased yoghurt consumption was associated with a higher hip bone density and a significantly reduced risk of osteoporosis in men and women over 60.
The findings of the Irish study, led by Trinity College Dublin scientists, showed that total hip and femoral neck bone mineral density measures in women were 3.1 to 3.9 per cent higher among those who ate the most yoghurt compared to none at all.
And improvements were also seen in some of the physical function measures of women (6.7 per cent better).
In men, the biomarker of bone breakdown was 9.5 per cent lower in those who ate the most yoghurt, compared to the lowest.
To determine risk factors for being diagnosed with osteoporosis, the researchers analysed a range of measures including body mass index (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 drinking and smoking.
After adjusting for all the factors, each unit increase in yoghurt intake in women was associated with a 39 per cent lower risk of osteoporosis and a 31 per cent lower risk of osteopenia, a less severe form of the condition.
In men, a 52 per cent lower risk of osteoporosis was found. Vitamin D supplements were also associated with “significantly reduced risks” both in men and women.
Osteoporosis, or brittle bone syndrome, is a chronic condition associated with a reduction in bone strength and an increased risk of breaking bones.
The associated costs of osteoporotic fractures are estimated to be more than £540 million a year in Europe.
“Going from eating no yoghurt to one unit a day could reduce the risk of osteoporosis in men over 60 by more than half, and by more than a third in women in the same age group.
“In the regression analysis, after adjusting for other factors, we found that each unit increase in yoghurt intakes was associated with a lower risk of osteoporosis.”
He added: “The data suggest that improving yoghurt intakes could be a strategy for maintaining bone health, but it needs verification through future research as it is observational.”
Study senior investigator Dr Miriam Casey, Consultant Physician at St James’s Hospital Dublin, said: “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 yoghurt.”