Is Osteoporosis Really Higher in Milk-Drinking Countries?

Many factors are involved in the development of osteoporosis, beyond just milk consumption. A sedentary lifestyle is an important risk factor too.

Some observational studies have reported that osteoporosis and fracture rates are higher in countries that consume the most milk, compared to Asian countries where very little milk is consumed. These types of studies do not imply a direct cause and effect. Rather, they point at possible associations between two selected factors without taking into account other potential contributing factors such as vitamin D status and physical activity levels.

In fact, in highly urbanized Asian cities (such as Hong Kong) where people have more sedentary lifestyles, hip fracture rates are the same as in the US.

Recent reports indicate that the burden of osteoporosis and fractures has been severely underestimated in Asia. With an aging population, there has been a 2- to 3-fold increase in the incidence of hip fractures. It is estimated that by 2050, over half of all hip fractures worldwide will occur in Asia, with the majority in China.

By Rola Zahr, RD

  1. Lau EM, Lee JK, Suriwongpaisal P, Saw SM, Das De S, Khir A, et al. The incidence of hip fracture in four Asian countries: the Asian Osteoporosis Study. Osteoporos Int. 2001;12(3):239-43. Abstract available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11315243.
  2. Bow CH, Cheung E, Cheung CL, Xiao SM, Loong C, Soong C, et al. Ethnic difference of clinical vertebral fracture risk. Osteoporos Int. 2012 Mar;23(3):879-85. Abstract available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21461720 12.
  3. Pripp AH, Dahl OE. The population attributable risk of nutrition and lifestyle on hip fractures. Hip Int. 2015 Apr 23. doi: 10.5301/hipint.5000229. Abstract available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25907388.
  4. International Osteoporosis Foundation. 2013. Asia-Pacific regional audit: epidemiology, costs & burden of osteoporosis in 2013www.iofbonehealth.org. Accessed September 2, 2014.
  5. Cong E and Walker MD. The Chinese skeleton: insights into microstructure that help to explain the epidemiology of fracture. Bone Research 2014;2:14009.



About BC Dairy

BC Dairy is a not-for-profit organization representing BC’s dairy farmers.