Increasing dairy intake to reduce falls and fractures

Researchers from the University of Melbourne and Austin Health are investigating whether two extra serves of dairy food a day can reduce falls and fractures among aged care residents.


dairy intake to reduce falls
Dr Sandra Iuliano

A University of Melbourne and Austin Health research project is investigating whether two extra serves of dairy food a day can reduce falls and fractures among aged care residents.

The two-year study involving 3,000 low care residents in 60 aged care facilities aims to improve protein and calcium intake through the additional serves of dairy to help residents maintain muscle and bone strength.

The project, which is currently recruiting facilities, follows lead researcher Dr Sandra Iuliano’s previous study that found a dairy-based supplement could prevent falls and fractures among aged care residents.

Insufficient protein and calcium increases the risk of falls and fracture because muscles weaken, balance worsens and bones break down more quickly, said Dr Iuliano from Melbourne University and Austin Health’s Department of Endocrinology.

“On average, low level aged care residents consume two or less serves of dairy foods per day with more than 75 per cent of residents below recommended intake levels for protein and calcium,” she said.

The study will test the impact four serves of dairy a day has on correcting the deficiencies and reducing the rate of falls and fractures among participants.

Dr Iuliano said this population was chosen because it has the highest risk for falls and fracture due to their health status and have often entered aged care because of an injury or fracture from a prior fall.

“Having such a large number of high risk elderly in the one location means we can test the anti-fracture efficacy of dairy foods at the recommended intake level, in a location where falls and fractures are monitored, the food is provided to the residents, and compliance with the food can be measured,” she said.

It is hoped the findings can then be used to benefit others in the community also at risk of falls and fractures.

“If we can demonstrate that falls and fractures can be reduced by residents consuming the recommended intake for dairy serves, then this is a health message that can extend beyond just aged care and into elderly in the community,” Dr Iuliano said.

Facilities invited to participate

The two-year project spread over three years is recruiting about one facility per week. The researchers already have 10 facilities on board and hope to recruit the remaining 50 over the next few months.

Food service staff are trained and supported to modify the menus to improve dairy food intake, Dr Iuliano said. And prior to the intervention, participants will be have bone density and structure and balance measured at the Austin Hospital and leg and hand strength, physical function and a blood test measured at the facility.

There is no cost to the facility or the residents participating in the project. All the additional dairy foods required for the intervention will be provided.

Facilities interested in participating should contact Dr Sandra Iuliano on 03 9496 3216 or The study is predominantly Melbourne-based but facilities in regional Victoria will be considered, Dr Iuliano said.

Tags: Austin-health, Dr-Sandra-Iuliano, falls, falls-prevention, fractures, low-care, university-of-melbourne,

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