I know sometimes it’s not easy to change lifetime eating habits! But again and again, studies document the bone-building benefits of consuming nutrient-dense foods — such as yogurt.
In a large Irish study, one serving of yogurt daily was linked to a substantially lower risk of osteoporosis and osteopenia.
The researchers measured total hip, femoral neck, and vertebral BMD and bone biochemical markers in 1,057 women and 763 men and conducted separate measurements of physical function in 2,624 women and 1,290 men. Then they accounted for a wide range of factors that affect the risk of osteoporosis: body weight, kidney function, physical activity, servings of milk or cheese, and calcium or vitamin D supplements, smoking, alcohol use, and so forth.
Two things make this study especially interesting
First, the bone-strengthening effect of yogurt was not seen in people who drank milk or ate cheese — it was the yogurt, specifically, not any dairy product. This supports the suggestion that yogurt’s bone-building punch lies in its contribution to our all-important gut microbiome.
Second, the study included over 4,000 adults in the over-60 age group and looked at both physiological measures of bone quality as well as physical function measures like the ability to complete common movements (standing up). This strategy provides a more holistic portrait not just the bones, but the body as a whole. I’m always in favor of that!
It’s not the first time we’ve seen the suggestion that probiotics support bone health. Another study from Sweden reported fermented dairy was associated with a lower risk of fracture, and the US Framingham Offspring Study found a similar association between yogurt consumption and hip bone density. I’ve noted before that probiotics can strongly inhibit inflammation and likely enhance bone strength for this reason.
What does this study mean?
While the study found a strong link between yogurt and bone health, that doesn’t mean eating multiple servings of yogurt daily will eliminate your risk osteopenia or osteoporosis. But it does support the idea that nutrient-dense foods, like a low-sugar, high probiotic yogurt, benefit bone by delivering calcium, protein, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients.
All yogurts are not created equal
The most successful studies were done with European yogurts, which are high in probiotic organisms and low in sugar. If you want to see what yogurt can do for you, choose brands high in beneficial bacteria with no added sugar or additives (which unfortunately can counteract the benefits). Best bet: start with plain, organic, whole-milk yogurt and add fresh berries and alkalizing nuts and seeds for a creamy bone-supporting treat. Or whip up a yogurt smoothie! The possibilities are endless.
No dairy? No worries! If you avoid dairy remember there any many wholesome non-dairy fermented foods such as sauerkraut, olives, kimchi, tempeh, miso and true (fermented) pickles of all sorts.
Laird E., Molloy A.M., McNulty H. et al. Greater yogurt consumption is associated with increased bone mineral density and physical function in older adults. Osteoporos Int (2017). doi:10.1007/s00198-017-4049-5
Michaelsson K., Wolk A., Langenskiöld S., et al. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. BMJ 2014;349:g6015.
Martín Jiménez JA, Consuegra Moya B, Martín Jiménez MT. [Nutritional factors in preventing osteoporosis]. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Jul 18;32 Suppl 1:49-55. doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.sup1.9480.