Identifying environmental factors that influence bone health is crucial for developing effective intervention strategies that maximize peak bone mass. The aim of this study was to estimate the relationship between milk consumption and bone mineral density (BMD) in young adults, and to examine whether this relationship is mediated by body mass index (BMI) and total lean and fat mass. A cross-sectional study involving college students (n = 239) from a Spanish public university was performed. Data on milk consumption and anthropometric and body composition variables were collected. The Pearson correlation coefficients among total body BMD, body composition variables, and milk consumption ranged from -0.111 to -1.171, most of them statistically significant (p < 0.05). The ANCOVA (analysis of covariance) models showed that those with higher regular milk consumption had less total body BMD than those with lower regular milk consumption (p < 0.05), even after controlling for different sets of confounders. In the mediation analysis, BMI and lean and fat mass turned out to act as full mediators of the relationship between regular milk consumption and total body BMD (z = -1.7148, -1.3208, and -1.8549, respectively; p ≤ 0.05). In conclusion, milk consumption, per se, does not seem to have a direct effect on bone development, because its association seems to be fully mediated by body composition variables in young adults.
Keywords: body composition; bone health; bone mineral density; college students; dairy products; milk intake; weight status.