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Milk Helps Keep Men's Bones Strong

Researcher says few of us drink enough milk
By Linda Little
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Medical News

Sept. 23, 2005 (Nashville, Tenn.) - Real men may not eat quiche, but they might want to drink milk.

The number of older men getting osteoporosis, making them susceptible to bone fractures, is increasing. But a large glass of fortified, low-fat milk may aid in warding off that brittle-bone disease.

"A large glass a day of fortified milk may provide a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to slow or stop the age-related bone loss in men," says Robin Daly, a research fellow in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

Less Bone Loss With Milk

Australian researchers took 167 men over the age of 50 and randomly assigned them to either drink a glass of milk fortified with 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 800 international units of vitamin D a day or continue on their usual diet.

The men's bone mineral density -- an indicator of bone strength -- was checked every six months over a two-year period.

The findings were presented at the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research meeting.

Researchers found that 88% of the men in the milk group were compliant in drinking their fortified milk. The men had no weight gain.

At the end of the study, the rate of bone loss was about 1.6% less than the comparison group. There was no difference in bone density in the spine.

The milk drinkers also had higher levels of vitamin D and lower levels of parathyroid hormone, a hormone that breaks down bone.

"The rate of bone loss was less in the milk drinkers," says Daly. "Men are living longer and more are being diagnosed with osteoporosis. Yet grown men don't usually drink a lot of milk."

Giving Milk a Punch

The milk used in the study contained much higher levels of calcium and vitamin D than milk on store shelves.

A glass of milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium and close to 100 international units of vitamin D. Milk isn't fortified in Australia, says Daly.

Calcium helps keep bones strong. And vitamin D helps the body better use calcium.

Supplementing milk and other food products with calcium and vitamin D not only would increase bone density in men but in the general population as well, he says. "People need to get more exercise and drink more milk."

Though women, who are more prone to osteoporosis, have been advised for decades to drink milk and take calcium supplements, men have not received the same message, he says.

Elizabeth Shane, MD, Columbia University professor of clinical medicine, agrees.

"No one drinks enough milk," she says.

New dietary guidelines recommend drinking three 8-ounce glasses of milk daily. In place of a glass of milk, other dairy options include 1 cup of yogurt or 1.5 to 2 ounces of cheese. This would offer about 900 milligrams of calcium and about 300 international units of vitamin D.

In the past, medical research involved primarily male participants. However, osteoporosis research places more emphasis on women because of their higher risk for osteoporosis, Shane says.

"This is one of the few areas where women trumped men. Now researchers are looking at both men and women in terms of osteoporosis," she says.

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