Last updated on: 8/3/2009 | Author:

Does Drinking Milk Help to Prevent Osteoporosis?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The National Osteoporosis Foundation wrote in the “Fast Facts” section of its website (accessed Nov. 19, 2007) that:

“Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist, although any bone can be affected.

Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, or 55 percent of the people 50 years of age and older. In the U.S., 10 million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.

Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can be the best defense against developing osteoporosis later. There are five steps, which together can optimize bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. They are:

  • A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Weight-bearing and resistance-training exercises
  • A healthy lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol intake
  • Talking to one’s healthcare professional about bone health
  • Bone density testing and medication when appropriate”
Nov. 2007

PRO (yes)


The National Dairy Council wrote in a Nov.-Dec. 2004 article titled “Building Better Bones With Dairy Foods Throughout the Lifecycle,” published in the Dairy Council Digest, that:

“Prevention of osteoporosis begins in childhood and adolescence because much of genetically determined peak bone mass is accrued during the first two decades of life. Studies in children and adolescents demonstrate that increasing consumption of dairy foods benefits bone health – or that low intake of dairy foods compromises bone health and may increase the risk of bone fractures during growth. Moreover, consuming an adequate intake of milk and other dairy foods during childhood and adolescence may protect against fractures in later years.

Investigations in adults demonstrate that consuming calcium-rich dairy foods such as milk, cheese, or yogurt reduces age related bone loss and risk of osteoporotic fractures.

Milk and other dairy foods are the preferred source of calcium because of their high calcium content and the presence of other nutrients important for bone and overall health.”

Nov.-Dec. 2004


Sharon Soroko, MS, researcher with the Division of Epidemiology at the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California at San Diego, wrote in a Feb. 4, 1994 study, cowritten with Troy L. Holbrook, Sharon Edelstein, and Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, titled “Lifetime Milk Consumption and Bone Mineral Density in Older Women,” published in the American Journal of Public Health, that:

“Osteoporotic low bone mineral density often leads to fractures, costly hospitalization, and prolonged use of health services. Milk accounts for about half of all dietary calcium intake in North America and the importance of calcium in milk for attaining peak bone mass and preventing osteoporosis may relate to the quantity consumed during specific life periods. In this paper, we report the association of lifetime milk consumption with bone mineral density in a community based cohort of older women.

The observed relation between bone mineral density and post adolescent milk consumption is consistent with evidence that a calcium-rich diet during adulthood contributes to peak bone mass and/or helps minimize bone loss.

This study lends further support to the importance of milk in the preservation of bone in women.”

Feb. 4, 1994


Robert P. Heaney, MD, John A. Creighton University Professor at Creighton University, wrote in his 2000 article “Calcium, Dairy Products and Osteoporosis,” published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, that:

“[L]ow intakes [of calcium] predispose to development of osteoporosis by reducing achieved peak bone mass during growth and by causing or aggravating age-related bone loss later in life…high calcium intakes are recognized as protective against osteoporosis.

It is long established and well understood that milk supports growth; thus, it is evident that milk and milk products are good sources of the nutrients needed for bone development and maintenance.

One sometimes encounters arguments that the protein and sodium of milk somehow negate the potential benefit of its calcium. These speculations are based on the established fact that both protein and sodium lead to increased urinary calcium excretion. However, the negative effects of protein and sodium are observed mainly at low calcium intakes, when, with absorption already operating at an individual’s maximum, there is no possibility of increasing calcium extraction from the diet so as to offset an increment in excretory loss…

[E]ven at low calcium intakes, the ratio of the calcium in milk to its sodium and protein content is so high as to offset directly any calciuric effects; that is, even without physiological adjustment, the calcium absorbed exceeds the calcium eliminated by virtue of sodium and protein…a diet low in dairy foods means a diet that is poor in several respects beyond insufficiency of calcium.”



Edmund Renner, PhD, Dairy Science Section of the Faculty of Agriculture at Justus Liebig University, wrote in his Sep. 6, 1994 article “Dairy Calcium, Bone Metabolism, and Prevention of Osteoporosis,” published in the Journal of Dairy Science, that:

“Calcium intake through milk and milk products… has a direct and distinct effect on the bone parameters of young adults. [Our research] shows that bone mineral content of both groups rises as calcium intake increases through milk and milk products, but the same amounts of calcium led to higher bone mineral values in young males than in young females.

For elderly subjects, we also studied whether calcium intake via milk and milk products during different periods of life affected the bone parameters in advanced age. The evidence was clear that calcium intake via milk and milk products, particularly in childhood and adolescence, is essentially responsible for the bone mineral content in the elderly.

Calcium intake via milk and dairy products of the male and female osteoporotic subjects had been markedly lower during childhood and adolescence (55 and 46%, respectively) than that of their age-matched controls. This finding confirms that inadequate calcium intake during these early periods of life is a decisive risk factor for the development of osteoporosis.

These findings lead to the conclusion that an adequate calcium intake-which can best be ensured through milk and milk products-is not only a prerequisite for optimal bone formation but also a means to prevent enhanced bone resorption. This association is of special relevance for osteoporotic patients. Adequate calcium intake via milk and milk products was an important protective factor against bone resorption for both male and female osteoporotics, as expressed by the 40 to 50% reduction of the serum osteocalcin.”

Sep. 6, 1994

CON (no)


Diane Feskanich, ScD, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, wrote in a 2003 article, cowritten with Walter C. Willett, and Graham A. Colditz, titled “Calcium, Vitamin D, Milk Consumption, and Hip Fractures: A Prospective Study Among Postmenopausal Women,” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that:

“Milk is a primary source of calcium and vitamin D and therefore might be expected to decrease osteoporotic bone loss and fracture risk, yet research has not generally supported this assumption. Evidence from clinical trials and case-control studies has been mixed, and several observational studies found no decrease in risk of bone fracture with higher consumption of milk and dairy foods…

Milk is a good source of both calcium and vitamin D, yet fortified milk also contains significant amounts of vitamin A, which has been associated with an increased risk of hip fracture. In this study among postmenopausal women, milk was not associated with a decreased risk of hip fracture, even among those drinking 600 mL.

In conclusion, our study adds to the evidence that adequate vitamin D intake is associated with a lower occurrence of osteoporotic hip fractures in postmenopausal women. A high-calcium diet appears to be of less importance. Although fortified milk is one of the few food sources of vitamin D, high consumption does not appear to substantially reduce the risk of hip fracture, perhaps because of other nutrients in the milk, such as vitamin A, that do not support bone health.”



The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine wrote in their article “Health Concerns About Dairy Products,” posted on their website (accessed Nov. 19, 2007):

“Milk’s main selling point is calcium, and milk-drinking is touted for building strong bones in children and preventing osteoporosis in older persons. However, clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones. A 2005 review published in Pediatrics showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children. Similarly, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, (1.49 MB) which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. While calcium is important for bone health, studies show that increasing consumption beyond approximately 600 mg per day-amounts that are easily achieved without dairy products or calcium supplements-does not improve bone integrity.

In studies of children and adults, exercise has been found to have a major effect on bone density.

You can decrease your risk of osteoporosis by reducing sodium and animal protein intake in the diet, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, exercising, and ensuring adequate calcium intake from plant foods such as kale, broccoli, and other leafy green vegetables and beans. You can also use calcium-fortified products such as breakfast cereals and juices, although these products provide more concentrated calcium than is necessary.”

Nov. 19, 2007


Amy Joy Lanou, PhD, Senior Nutrition Scientist at the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, wrote in her Mar. 2005 article, cowritten with Susan E. Berkow and Neal D. Barnard, titled “Calcium, Dairy Products, and Bone Health in Children and Young Adults: A Reevaluation of the Evidence,” published in Pediatrics, that:

“[B]ecause the level of dairy product consumption in the United States is among the highest in the world, accounting for 72% of dietary calcium intake, and osteoporosis and fracture rates are simultaneously high, numerous researchers have called into question the effectiveness of nutrition policies aimed at osteoporosis prevention through dairy consumption…

Dietary protein, including that from dairy products, influences calcium balance. An adequate protein intake is important for supporting bone growth in children and maintaining bone mass in older adults. However, increasing intake of dietary protein, particularly animal protein, is associated with increased urinary calcium losses that may result in increased bone resorption or increased fracture… Approximately 6mg of dietary calcium is theoretically required to offset the urinary calcium loss associated with 1g of protein.

Dairy products may contain up to 20% of the recommended dietary allowance for sodium per serving. Sodium is an important determinant of urinary calcium excretion because the 2 minerals compete for resorption in the renal tubules. For every 2300 mg of sodium excreted by the kidney, 40 to 60 mg of calcium also are lost…

Currently available evidence does not support nutritional guidelines focused specifically on increasing milk or other dairy product intake for promoting child and adolescent bone mineralization.”

Mar. 2005


Thijs R. Klompmaker, author, wrote in his article “Excessive Calcium Causes Osteoporosis” published on the WaiSays website (accessed Nov. 14, 2007) that:

“It is very simple: where the most milk is consumed, the osteoporosis incidence is highest. Compared to other countries, the most milk is consumed in Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and The Netherlands (300 to 400 kg / cap / year), and osteoporosis incidence in these countries has sky rocketed.

Among those within America that consume less milk, such as the Mexican-Americans and Black Americans, osteoporosis incidence is two-fold lower than in white Americans, which is not due to genetic differences.

Chinese consume very little milk (8 kg / year), and hip-fracture incidence, therefore, is among the lowest in the world; hip-fracture incidence in Chinese women is 6 fold lower than in the US. (The average American consumes 254 kg milk /year).

The less milk consumed, the lower is the osteoporosis rate.”

Nov. 14, 2007