More milk, cheese varieties needed to combat kid calcium deficiency

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Milk

Children are not getting enough calcium in their diets, according
to US dieticians, who recommend that more milk, cheese and yogurt
products targeting kids would be one way to address the deficiency.

Eighty-three percent of 674 members of the New York State Dietetic Association (NYSDA) cited calcium as the single nutrient most lacking in kids' diets today, according to a recent survey.

Sponsored by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, the survey findings provide significant backing to the organizations' unending attempts to get the nation to consume more milk.

And soft drinks are again targeted as the villain.

The general consensus among NYSDA members is that too much soda consumption has been partly responsible for the children's calcium deficiency, with 96 percent citing soft drinks as the root cause of childhood obesity. Instead, they say, children should drink milk with their meals.

"When milk replaces soft drinks in the diet it will cut down on the abundance of added sugar and empty calories kids get from those beverages,"​ said Keri Gans, president elect of New York Dietetic Association.

Survey respondents felt that banning soda and junk food in schools while finding ways to increase milk consumption would "greatly benefit kids' health".

Some 71 percent recommended that schools offer one percent chocolate milk daily and 50 percent recommended that one percent strawberry milk be offered. NYSDA members also suggested that schools replace junk food vending with calcium rich vending machines that offer calcium rich snacks such as yogurt, string cheese, pudding and flavored milks.

Other suggestions by the dieticians for increasing calcium intake included targeting milk message campaigns to students and parents through advertising, public service announcements and classroom education.

Intake of calcium is important for the development of the skeleton and to reduce the risk of fracture and osteoporosis in later life, and the peak calcium buildup rate is at age 12.5 for girls and 14 for boys.

A recent report published in the journal Pediatrics​ claimed that US teenagers are living with the threat of osteoporosis in later life by not getting enough calcium. The report revealed that about 30 per cent of boys and only 10 per cent of girls were achieving the recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium.

The RDI for 9 to 18 year olds is 1300 mg per day, and yet the average intake in this age group is about 850 mg per day.

"Sub-optimal intakes of calcium in children and adolescents may be related to the replacement of milk intake by soft drinks and fruit juices and/or fruit drinks,"​ wrote the authors.

This dietary change, away from milk products and towards fruit or soft drinks, is due to parents not drinking enough milk themselves, and so being poor role models, said the researchers.

Four eight-ounce glasses of milk could provide the RDI for teenagers, but some adolescent girls appear reluctant to have a large dairy intake because of misconception that dairy products are fattening, they said.

Related topics Dairy-based ingredients

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