Aged care: increasing dairy intake can reduce falls, fractures — study

Thursday, 21 October, 2021

Aged care: increasing dairy intake can reduce falls, fractures — study

A two-year trial, which included 7195 residents from 60 Victorian aged-care facilities, has found that addition of dairy foods into the daily diet of aged-care residents can reduce fractures and falls.

The research was led by the University of Melbourne and Austin Health, and supported by grants from nine global dairy organisations and three philanthropic organisations, including Dairy Australia.

Around two-thirds of aged-care residents are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, with the intake of dairy foods in this population typically less than half the amount recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Around 30% of all hip fractures occur in aged-care residents. This claims to be the first study to test the impact of providing additional calcium and protein through dairy foods on the risk of fractures and falls in older adults. Previous clinical trials have taken a pharmacological approach where residents have their diet supplemented with vitamin D or calcium tablets to reduce bone loss, according to the researchers.

Principal investigator Dr Sandra Iuliano, from the University of Melbourne and Austin Health, said, “We were keen to investigate this issue through a nutritional approach. We know that the consumption of milk, yoghurt and cheese, that are rich in calcium and protein, slows bone loss.”

They found this simple intervention — where dairy food intake increased from approximately two serves per day to 3.5 serves per day — led to a significant reduction in fractures and falls.

Dr Iuliano said, “Our cluster randomised controlled trial showed muscles of the arms and legs [were] maintained and falls reduced in the residents given the additional dairy foods. This is an achievable goal in any aged-care setting as these foods are widely available, palatable, low cost and can be incorporated into the daily menu.”

The study found a 33% reduction in all fractures, a 46% reduction in hip fractures, and an 11% reduction in falls, with a significant reduction apparent between three and five months after the trial began.

Dr Iuliano hopes the outcomes from the trial will be used to improve policy and good clinical practice across the aged-care sector. Findings of the study were published in the British Medical Journal.

Dairy Australia Nutritionist Dr Rivkeh Haryono said, “The results of the clinical trial are clear — and, importantly, reconfirm that consuming sufficient levels of dairy in older adulthood plays a key role in safeguarding bone and muscle health.

“Dually, increasing the consumption of milk, cheese and yoghurt improves overall nutrition in aged-care residents.”

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