Today, Sunday, June 1, is ‘world milk day’ and the United Nations is promoting its attributes as a source of calcium and protein.

According to Dr. Miriam Casey, Consultant Physician at St. James’s Hospital with a special interest in Osteoporosis, young childhood and the adolescent years are critical lifestages in terms of bone development, with approximately half of an adult’s bone mass accumulating during the short time-frame of adolescence.

Dr. Casey points to research from St. James’s on national fracture trends, which estimate that by 2025, the number of all types of osteoporotic-type fractures in Ireland is projected to increase by 79% and the number of hip fractures is expected to increase by 88%.

While acknowledging the huge impact of a fracture on the overall health, wellbeing and quality of life of a patient, this predicted increase in the number of osteoporotic fractures will also be a significant burden on the healthcare system. “In general,” says Dr Casey, “there would be major potential for worldwide savings in healthcare costs related to osteoporosis, if recommended, relevant dietary advice was taken on board.”

Dr Casey is the Principal Investigator on the Bone arm of a cross border study known as ‘TUDA’. The TUDA study is a North-South research collaboration, involving Trinity College, the University of Ulster and the Department of Agriculture, where the latter invested €1.8m into funding this study of 6000 older subjects. Dr Miriam Casey explains that the aim of the bone element of this study is to explore the impact of various factors on bone health, including nutrition, diet and genetic profile, among people aged 60 years and over who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

“To date, over 1,400 people have been recruited onto the TUDA bone study. Using dietary questionnaires and other measurements we now have an insight into the dietary habits and nutritional status of this population group,” says Dr Casey.

“A balanced diet is essential for bone health and while we can’t quantify the total intake of specific foods from this study, some very interesting dietary trends from the current data have been noted.”

Overall, 99% of participants were consumers of milk. However, only 42% said they consumed milk as a drink. On a more positive note, milk with cereal appears to be a popular choice – 81% reported having milk with cereal.