Adequate intake of milk is essential to assure strong bone calcification process in early life. Few other foods have an adequate amount of calcium, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.
Without adequate calcium, people, especially white women, are vulnerable to osteoporosis later in life. The disease is serious and debilitating.
Roy says current dietary recommendations for calcium intake are to maximize bone mineral during the developmental years to reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis and fractures in later years.
A study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" examined data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, collected from 1988 to 1994. The data were used to analyze milk intake in childhood and adolescence and compare it to bone mineral content in adulthood in more than 3,000 pre- and postmenopausal Caucasian women. Caucasian women were used to analyze the data, since they are more likely to get osteoporosis than African American or Hispanic women.
In premenopausal women, ages 20 to 49 years, milk intake in childhood was significantly correlated with higher bone mineral content. Those with highest intake of milk had significantly higher bone mineral content in adulthood than those who had the lowest milk intake. Milk intake during adolescence was also associated with bone mineral content in adulthood. The association was not as strong, however.
In women older than 50, milk intake higher than one serving a day in childhood and adolescence resulted in significantly higher bone mineral content at 50 years than in those who consumed the least amount of milk, less than one serving a week. Those with lower milk intake were two times more likely to suffer from fractures than those with high milk intake. Lower intake of milk accounts for 11 percent of fractures seen in women 50 years of age and older.
"This study shows the importance of consuming an adequate amount of calcium in childhood and adolescence to build adequate bone mass for later life," the LSU AgCenter nutritionist affirms. She advises that children drink two or more glasses of milk per day and youth up to three glasses of milk per day. This will reduce the risk of fractures in later life.
The USDA Food Guide recommends three servings of foods high in calcium from the milk group. The group includes milk and milk products. Milk products have other nutrients, such as added vitamin D, which are important for calcium absorption and use. Bony fish, nuts, beans and greens are other good sources of calcium.
Roy recommends contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations. In addition, visit the Food & Health section of the LSU AgCenter Web site for additional information.