Yogurt can be a delicious snack, helping provide the body with valuable nutrients and even help balance intestinal bacteria, promoting good digestive health. According to new research, yogurt is not only great for your gut, but also for your bones, as what is considered the largest observational study to date involving dairy intake has found that those who consumed yogurt had higher hip bone density and a scientifically reduced risk of osteoporosis—a chronic bone condition associated with reduced bone strength and increase risk of bone fracture.
The study, led by Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, involved over 5,000 Irish men and women from the aging population at risk for osteoporosis. The researchers measured total hip and femoral neck bone mineral density in females, seeing a 3.1-3.9 percent increase in those with the highest yogurt intakes compared to the lowest. Improvement in physical function was also seen in these women.
In men, biomarkers for bone breakdown were seen to be 9.5 percent lower in those with high yogurt intake compared to the lowest, indicating that less bone was breaking down and being repaired in these patients.
In order to identify the reasoning behind this association and the risk factors for being diagnosed as osteoporotic, an analysis of several factors such as BMI, kidney function, physical activity, servings of milk or cheese, and calcium or vitamin D supplementation as well as traditional risk factors for bone health—like smoking and alcohol intake—were taken into account.
When adjusting the data to better account for these factors, the researchers concluded that each unit increase in yogurt intake in women was associated with a 31 percent lower risk of osteopenia, and a 39 percent lower risk of osteoporosis. For men, the association was a 52 percent lower risk of osteoporosis. The use of vitamin D was observed in both groups to significantly reduce risk as well.
“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” said Dr. Eamon Laird, lead author of the study and research fellow at the Centre for Medical Gerontology, Trinity.
“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 randomized controlled trials as we still don’t understand the exact mechanisms which could be due to the benefits of microbiota or the macro and micronutrient composition of the yogurt.”
Related: Six tips to improve your bone health