Two glass containers filled with white milk. One container has a green straw.
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Research team awarded $900,000 to study effects of milk and yogurt consumption on health

An interdisciplinary University of Saskatchewan (USask) research collaboration may provide a basis for developing targeted health initiatives for Canadians and advancing knowledge on potential disease prevention strategies

By Jason Belhumeur

USask researchers have been awarded $900,000 by Dairy Farmers of Canada (Dairy Research Cluster 4) and Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (AAFC) to investigate the role of milk and yogurt supplementation in the development of osteoporosis and obesity.

The research team, co-led by Dr. Hassan Vatanparast (College of Pharmacy and Nutrition; School of Public Health), Dr. Phil Chilibeck, PhD, (College of Kinesiology), and Dr. Sandra Clarke, PhD, (AAFC) along with co-investigators Dr. Adam Baxter-Jones, PhD, (College of Kinesiology), Dr. Marta Erlandson, PhD, (College of Kinesiology), Dr. Walter Siqueira, PhD, (College of Dentistry), and Dr. Ginny Lane, PhD, (University of Idaho; Family and Consumer Sciences), will conduct a two-year randomized controlled trial where Canadian adults aged 19-30 years old will be asked to consume either 1.5 daily servings of milk, two daily servings of yogurt, or be part of the control group.

The research team will assess bone health by measuring parameters and hormonal indices related to bone metabolism through blood and saliva tests; examine body composition; and analyze the number and composition of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. 

This research is expected to yield valuable insights into the effects of milk and yogurt consumption on health, providing a basis for developing targeted health initiatives for Canadians and advancing knowledge on potential disease prevention strategies.


Dr. Hassan Vatanparast has made substantial contributions to health research, significantly impacting health status in Saskatchewan and extending his influence beyond. Since 2009, he has maintained joint appointments in the University of Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and the School of Public Health. His extensive and varied research portfolio not only includes nutritional epidemiology studies based on national survey datasets and research on migration health but also encompasses a keen interest in bone health. Dr. Vatanparast's studies are mainly focused on populations at risk such as immigrants, refugees, and indigenous people. (Photographer: Debra Marshall)

Examples of his work in this area include the Pediatric Bone Mineral Accrual Study (PBMAS), which assesses bone accrual and explores the influence of physical activity and nutrition on the development of bone mass throughout the lifespan. These studies started in 1990-1991 and the last round of data collection ended in 2018. Dr. Adam Baxter Jones is the director of that study, and Dr. Vatanparast was involved in that study from 2002 as a PhD student, and PI for the last round of data collection. 

Vatanparast was the nominated PI for the Nutrition and Growth Study (NGS), focusing on the role of dairy food consumption in the optimal growth and development of Canadian children, with Dr. Adam Baxter Jones as the co-PI using a unique mixed-method longitudinal study. Dr. Marta Erlandson is also a co-PI for the project, along with team members Dr. Walter Siqueira and Dr. Ginny Lane. 

Beyond these, Dr. Vatanparast has been instrumental in building health research collaborations with universities in 13 countries and working towards improving the food offerings available in Saskatchewan’s recreation facilities. His dedication and diverse research endeavors have been pivotal in advancing the field of health research, showcasing a profound commitment to enhancing health outcomes both locally and internationally.

Dairy products can provide numerous important nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, and high-quality protein, which contribute to optimal health. However, the impact of long-term supplementation with fermented (e.g., yogurt) and non-fermented (e.g., milk) dairy product consumption on bone health, body composition (e.g., fat and muscle mass), and gut health in young adults remains unknown. Furthermore, the recent declines in dairy product consumption among many Canadians and the recent controversies surrounding dairy consumption motivated the researchers to pursue this line of work.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada supports the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector through initiatives that promote innovation and competitiveness. 

Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) is a non-profit organization, funded by dairy farmers across Canada and representing Canada’s dairy farms. DFC plays a leadership role on behalf of the industry in several important areas, including funding and support of research in dairy production and in human nutrition and health. DFC has a long-standing commitment (over 30 years) of investing in research to drive innovation and ensure a sustainable future for the dairy sector.

Together, we will undertake the research the world needs. We invite you to join by supporting critical research at USask.

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