Study Shows Economic Benefits Of Dairy Consumption
November 13, 2012

Study Shows Economic Benefits Of Dairy Consumption

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new study conducted by European researchers analyzed the health economics of increased dairy food, showing the benefits of boosting dietary calcium intake.

The latest research reported in the journal Osteoporosis International shows that increasing consumption of dairy foods helps to prevent hip fractures and reduce healthcare costs.

The study was based on a new analytical model that links nutrition and fracture risk, and health economics. It was based on data from the Netherlands, France and Sweden, all countries that have varying levels of dairy product intake in the population.

"Despite the fact that the effects of foods on health are recognized, there are no accepted and proven methodologies to assess the health-economic impacts of foods on the general population," Professor René Rizzoli, study co-author, said in a statement. "Although this model may be further refined, it does provide a straightforward and easy-to-use method to assess the health-economic impact of food products on health, well-being and costs."

Around 60 to 70 percent of daily calcium intake in Western Countries is derived from dairy products. These products also contain a large variety of essential nutrients like minerals, vitamins and proteins that are also beneficial to bone health.

Low dietary intake of calcium has been associated with decreased bone density and increased risk of osteoporosis, which is a disease where bone becomes less dense and prone to fracture. Fractures are a costly public health burden that result in increased mortality, disability, pain and loss of health-related quality of life.

The researchers calculated the number of disability-adjusted life years cost due to hip fractures associated with low nutritional intake, and the number of hip fractures that could be prevented each year with intake of additional dairy products.

France saw the highest benefits, with 2,023 prevented hip fractures, followed by Sweden with 455 and the Netherlands at 132. This number presents a substantial health cost savings of about $164 million, $54 million, and $7.6 million for these countries, respectively.

"Our study likely underestimates the potential cost savings of increased dietary calcium in that it relies on existing figures for the senior population and does not take into account the long-term benefits to the younger generation," Rizzoli said in the statement.

He said that adequate nutritional intake and regular exercise during childhood and adolescent may contribute to bone strength and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life.