Dairy foods and bone health: examination of the evidence

Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Sep;72(3):681-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/72.3.681.


It is unclear whether dairy foods promote bone health in all populations and whether all dairy foods are equally beneficial. The objective of this review was to determine whether scientific evidence supports the recommendation that dairy foods be consumed daily for improved bone health in the general US population. Studies were reviewed that examined the relation of dairy foods to bone health in all age, sex, and race groups. Outcomes were classified according to the strength of the evidence by using a priori guidelines and were categorized as favorable, unfavorable, or not statistically significant. Of 57 outcomes of the effects of dairy foods on bone health, 53% were not significant, 42% were favorable, and 5% were unfavorable. Of 21 stronger-evidence studies, 57% were not significant, 29% were favorable, and 14% were unfavorable. The overall ratio of favorable to unfavorable effects in the stronger studies was 2.0 (4.0 in <30-y-olds, 1.0 in 30-50-y-olds, and 1.0 in >50-y-olds). Males and ethnic minorities were severely underrepresented. Dairy foods varied widely in their content of nutrients known to affect calcium excretion and skeletal mass. Foods such as milk and yogurt are likely to be beneficial; others, such as cottage cheese, may adversely affect bone health. Of the few stronger-evidence studies of dairy foods and bone health, most had outcomes that were not significant. However, white women <30 y old are most likely to benefit. There are too few studies in males and minority ethnic groups to determine whether dairy foods promote bone health in most of the US population.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Cheese
  • Dairy Products*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Milk