Does Milk Make Bones Stronger?

By: Adam Hutchison, PT, DPT

As people age bone density becomes an important area of focus. More prevalent in women, osteopenia/osteoporosis can leave people over the age of 50 more prone to fractures and skeletal related issues. With this in mind, health care professionals try to help their clients with improving bone strength. Walking and exercise can be an important part of the equation for improving bone strength but are there dietary changes we can make that will also help?

Glass container of milk being poured into a clear glassMilk

Is Milk Healthy? Does Milk Make Bones Stronger?

According to Noreen Iftikhar, MD, a physician and nutrition expert, there is nutritional value to milk. The following nutrients can be found in milk:

  • iron
  • selenium
  • vitamin B-6
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K
  • niacin
  • thiamin
  • riboflavin

Each one of the nutrients listed is helpful in controlling a person’s appetite, bone development, bone density, and can even be helpful in preventing diabetes. Milk is naturally packed with essential nutrients. Milk is a convenient and easy way to access the nutrients listed above to improve overall health. Studies have found that milk is more beneficial for child development and growth which is why children are more often encouraged to drink milk. However, there are benefits for older adults as well.

How Much Milk Should You Drink?

How much milk a person consumes depends on their age. The United States National Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults should drink 2-3 glasses of milk per day. Children under the age of 18 can drink slightly more: 3-4 glasses per day.

How Does Milk Make Bones Stronger?

There are two main ways that milk is helpful for bones. 

  1. Aid in bone development 
  2. Increase bone density/health.

Bone development According to a 2016 study, milk can be helpful improving bone strength and weight in children which lowers the risk of fractures.

Research has also shown that pregnant women whose diet included dairy and calcium-rich foods (milk consumption) had children with better bone growth and mass compared to those who did not have the same diet.

Bone Density and Bone Health

According to health experts, a cup of milk contains nearly 30% of the daily requirement of calcium. Milk also contains potassium and magnesium. Calcium, potassium and magnesium are all essential building blocks for bone growth. Most milk is rich in vitamin D. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption in the body. This bone reabsorption supplements bone mineralization and growth. Vitamin D essentially helps the human body optimize the use of calcium.

Do All Types Of Milk Make Bones Stronger?

These days there are main alternatives to traditional (cow) milk. People are gravitating to many plant-based milks due to dietary restrictions. An important question arises as a result. Are these traditional milk alternatives also helpful for bone health?

The most popular plant-based milks based on sales data from the past year are almond, oat, soy/pea, and coconut.

  • Almond milk: One cup of the unsweetened version has just 37 calories, a quarter the amount in whole milk and has less saturated fat. However almond milk has far less protein which means it is less helpful for bone growth and density.
  • Oat milk: Only has 3 grams of protein. Oat milk is more helpful for gut health than it is for bone development.
  • Soy/pea milk: When fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D, soy milk is the only nondairy milk that is comparable to cow’s milk in terms of nutrient balance, according to the dietary guidelines Soy and pea milk are also a natural source of potassium. These milks tends to provide the most similar nutritional value for bone health as cow milk.
  • Coconut milk: Made from the grated meat of coconuts, it’s naturally sweet and has about half as many calories as whole milk, but far less protein

Milk Makes Your Bones StrongerFoods That Make Your Bones Stronger

Milk does make bones stronger. It has a lot of vitamins and nutrients that are helpful for bone growth. The amount of milk a person consumes depends on their age and dietary restrictions. Although there are many milk alternatives, traditional (cow) milk appears to be the best for bone growth/development and for improving bone density.

Not only does milk make bones stronger, it tastes good too. At least, if it's cold. leaving milk out can change the taste and texture. 

Related Articles: JOI Fracture Clinic and Walking Boots for Foot and Ankle Injuries.

If you have bone issues or are concerned about your risk of fracture, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help. To schedule an appointment with a JOI Orthopedic Doctor, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below. To see a JOI Rehab Therapist in 1 of our 12 locations, call (904)858-7045

Skip to content