Dairy intake and bone health across the lifespan: a systematic review and expert narrative

Taylor C. Wallace, Regan L. Bailey, Joan Lappe, Kimberly O. O’Brien, Ding Ding Wang, Shivani Sahni, Connie M. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Over the past 30-years, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans have included recommendations around dairy consumption, largely based on meeting recommendations for calcium intake with the intended purpose of osteoporosis prevention. Although dairy products provide more bone-beneficial nutrients (e.g., calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and protein) per unit of energy than any other food group, the relevance of dairy products for long-term bone health and fracture prevention has resurged as some observational studies have suggested consumption to be associated with a greater risk of fractures. Given this controversy, we sought to synthesize the evidence on dairy consumption and bone health across the lifespan. We searched the PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials databases for English-language publications through June 2, 2020. Case-controlled, cross-sectional, prospective cohort or nestled case-control (or case cohort), and clinical trials reporting the effect of dairy products on bone mineral density, bone mineral content, and/or fractures were included in the systematic review. Two reviewers independently performed data extractions. Data from 91 publications, including 30 RCTs, 28 prospective cohorts, 23 cross-sectional studies, and 10 case-control studies were included in the systematic review. We assigned a “D” grade or “insufficient evidence” for the effect of dairy in infants and toddlers (0- to <36-months), children (3- to <10-years), and young adults (19- to <50-years). A “C” grade or “limited evidence” was assigned for the effect of dairy in adolescents (10- to <19-years). A “B” grade or “moderate” evidence was assigned for the effect of dairy in middle aged to older adults (≥50-years). Research on bone mass in adults between the ages of 20- to 50-years and individuals from other ethnic groups apart from Chinese females and Caucasians is greatly needed. Daily intake of low or nonfat dairy products as part of a healthy habitual dietary pattern may be associated with improved BMD of the total body and at some sites and associated with fewer fractures in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3661-3707
Number of pages47
JournalCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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