Tuesday, 07 December 2021 08:55

Dairy prevents falls in aged-care facilities

Written by  Jessica Marshall
A study has found that when dairy was introduced to the diets of aged-care facility residents, there was an 11% reduction in the number of falls that occurred. A study has found that when dairy was introduced to the diets of aged-care facility residents, there was an 11% reduction in the number of falls that occurred.

New research published in the British Medical Journal has revealed that increasing the amount of dairy foods in the diets of aged-care facility residents can reduce the likelihood of falls and fractures.

According to Dr Sandra Iuliano, who headed up the study, when dairy was introduced to the diets of aged-care facility residents, there was an 11% reduction in the number of falls that occurred.

She says that current nutritional recommendations meant that women require 4 servings of dairy and 3.5 servings of dairy for men per day.

“What we observed in aged care is that residents consumed about one serve of dairy, which is about a quarter of what they need,” Iuliano says.

She says they asked the question of what would happen if the diet of aged-care facility residents by adding more protein and calcium into their diet, would it change the amount of falls and fractures among residents?

To answer this, the study looked at 7195 residents across 60 different aged-care facilities of varying sizes in Australia, with 30 facilities providing 1.5 additional servings of dairy to their residents and 30 continuing as normal.

“We included the dairy food in several different ways,” Iuliano says.

These included giving residents the option of cheese and crackers of yoghurt at snack time. Where dairy was already present, it fortified the milk, meaning residents received twice as much protein and calcium in one serving.

Substitutes were made within the menu, with gravy being switched out for a white sauce, and modifications were also made to meals to increase the dairy content.

Iuliano says these basic changes made a big difference.

“The results of the study showed a 33 per cent reduction in all bone fractures, a 46 per cent reduction in hip fractures and an 11 per cent reduction in falls.

“Those residents having the extra dairy maintained lean muscle mass in their arms and legs, which could likely have contributed to the reduced falls risk.”

Dr Catherine Gunn, senior research scientist at Fonterra’s Research and Development Centres, was on the study’s steering committee and says the results show that dairy can be helpful to the elderly in terms of their health and wellbeing.

“This study helps to demonstrate the important role dairy could play in improving nutritional outcomes in the older population.

“A glass of milk continues to be one of the richest sources of readily available dietary calcium and protein, which play a significant role in growing and maintaining healthy bones, muscle and immunity through all life stages.”

Gunn says today’s consumers are focused on leading healthier and more active lifestyles, something she says dairy can help contribute to.

“By 2030, over 0.7 billion of the world’s population will be aged 70 and over, reaching 0.9 billion by 2040. Studies like this latest one provide solutions to some of the challenges faced by the ageing population.”

Fonterra supported the study along with the Centre National Interprofessionnel de l’Economie Laitière, Aarhus University Hospital, University of Melbourne, Austin Hospital Medical Research Foundation, Sir Edward Dunlop Medical Research Foundation, Dairy Australia, California Dairy Research Foundation, National Dairy Council, Dutch Dairy Association, Dairy Council of California, Danish Dairy Research Foundation and Dairy Farmers of Canada.

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