A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that older women who consume more dairy may maintain muscle mass that often diminishes with old age.
A total of 1,456 women, ages 70–85, reported how much dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) they consumed in the past 12 months, as well as the portion sizes through a food frequency survey. Based on the amount of dairy consumed, participants were split into three categories: less than 1.5 servings/day, 1.5–2.2 servings/day, and more than 2.2 servings per day.
Body weight, height, BMI (body mass index), and body composition (lean mass and fat mass) measurements were taken for each of the participants. Physical performance was determined by measuring hand grip strength and mobility. Participants were also asked to report the number of falls they had had within the past three months. The researchers took into account physical activity and smoking status when analyzing their findings.
The researchers found that women who consumed 1.5 or more servings of dairy/day had greater whole body lean mass and skeletal muscle mass than women who had less than 1.5 servings/day. They also found that hand grip strength was greater in women who had 2.2 servings/day of dairy compared to women who had less than this amount.
The researchers concluded that the results “suggest an association of higher dairy intake with greater whole body lean mass and better physical performance in older women.”