Increased amounts of dairy products – such as cheese, yoghurt and milk – in an older person’s diet may help prevent bone fractures and falls, according to new Australian research findings.
The study, conducted by a consortium of The University of Melbourne, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), followed 60 Australian aged care facilities for a period of two years.
Half of the participating facilities increased the amount of milk, yoghurt and cheese given to their residents to achieve the recommended levels of 1300mg of calcium and one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day.
The other half served as a control, maintaining their usual menus, which were assessed by researchers to be, on average, nutritionally deficient.
Comparing the number of falls, fractures and deaths over the two years, adding more dairy to the menu was associated with a 33 per cent lower risk for all fractures, 46 per cent lower risk for hip fractures, and 11 per cent lower risk for falls, the researchers say.
However, the decrease in injury had no significant impact on all cause mortality.
Dr Sandra Iuliano, author of the study and research fellow at the University of Melbourne, tells Aged Care News that dairy products offer a more satisfying route to nutritional outcome than supplementation with tablets.
“To be successful, an intervention has to be sustainable with good compliance,” she says.
“Eating is part of the everyday lives of the residents, so by providing more nutritious foods that are familiar and tasty, the residents continue to eat, enjoy what they are eating and gain the health benefits, too.”
This is one of only a few studies to examine whether getting these nutrients from foods (as opposed to supplements) are effective and safe.
Researchers found that the relative risk-reduction achieved through food product supplementation was similar to trials using potent, drug-based therapies.
They concluded in a statement that this nutritional intervention “has widespread implications as a public health measure for fracture prevention in the aged care setting and potentially in the wider community”.
Older adults living in residential care often have low calcium and protein intakes, which can lead to weak bones and an increase in the risk of falls and fractures.
It is estimated that older adults in aged care are the source of about 30 per cent of all hip fractures.
This research aligns with recent industry projects to fortify nutrition in aged care.
This month, Nestle Professional has released a free cookbook, featuring nutritionally complete recipes rich in protein, with many dairy-rich options available.