Last month was the National Osteoporosis Foundation’s Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. But now that the kids are home on summer break, they’re more likely to drink soda and fruit juice on hot summer days than to have a glass of milk for breakfast before school, another carton during lunch, and maybe a glass with an afterschool snack.
While it’s often considered a condition of aging, did you know that osteoporosis is actually a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences? The habits of early childhood and adolescence can significantly impact the likelihood of developing osteoporosis, and experts stress that prevention of osteoporosis needs to begin during the peak bone building years of childhood and adolescence.
A Gift from Mothers to Daughters
Decades of research suggest that one of the best ways to keep fractures and osteoporosis out of your daughter’s future is to encourage her to drink low fat milk instead of sugary sodas and fruit drinks. (Other milk products like low fat yogurt, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese are good choices, too.) Currently, nine out of 10 teenage girls fail to get enough of the calcium they need.
It’s recommended that children four to eight years of age drink three eight-ounce glasses of milk per day (or equivalent). Adolescents (kids nine to 18 year of age) need four servings. Adults should get three servings a day.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation also recommends that mothers help their daughters prevent osteoporosis by:
- Engaging in regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise
- Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol
- Talking to healthcare providers about bone health
- And having a bone-density test when appropriate
You can visit whymilk.com for more bone health tips and tools.
Studies show that milk does a body good
Many studies have examined milk’s effect on bone health in children and adolescents.
- Children (ages 3-13) who avoided milk were found to suffer from fractures more frequently than their milk-drinking peers. The majority of the milk avoiders had family members who did not drink milk.[i]
- In a two-year study of young children with a history of prolonged milk avoidance, the milk avoiders were more likely to suffer from osteopenia (low bone mass), were shorter, and had higher body mass indices (an indicator of body weight) compared to children who regularly drank milk.[ii]
- Regular calcium intake, especially calcium from milk, had a favorable effect on girls’ bone mass and attainment of peak bone density, which are critical factors in determining risk of osteoporosis later in life.[iii]
- Moms who drink milk are likely to have daughters who drink milk, and the availability of milk at meals and snacks was associated with meeting calcium recommendations and bone mineral status. The researchers suggest that early beverage choices, including choosing milk, learned well before rapid growth could have significant impact on bone health during adolescence.[iv]
In a recent report on bone health,[v] the American Academy of Pediatrics said inadequate calcium intake is a family problem and suggested several strategies to optimize bone health of children and adolescents,
[i] Goulding A, et al. Children who avoid drinking cow’s milk are at increased risk for prepubertal bone fractures. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2004; 104:250-253.
[ii] Rockell JEP, et al. Two-year changes in bone and body composition in young children with a history of prolonged milk avoidance. Osteoporosis International. 2005; 16:1016-1023.
[iii] Fiorito LM, et al. Girls’ calcium intake is associated with bone mineral content during middle childhood. Journal of Nutrition. 2006; 136:1281-1286.
[iv] Fisher JO, et al. Meeting calcium recommendations during middle childhood reflects mother-daughter beverage choice and predicts bone mineral status. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004; 79:698-706.
[v] Greer FR, Krebs NF and the AAP Committee on Nutrition. Optimizing bone health and calcium intakes of infants, children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2006;117:578-585.
(Full disclosure - The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Washington, D.C., is funded by the nation's milk processors, who are committed to increasing fluid milk consumption. The MilkPEP Board runs the National Milk Mustache "got milk?" campaign.
Their PR agency, Weber Shandwick, whom I’ve worked with on other food marketing campaigns, sent three t-shirts for me and my children, some recipes cards, and a personal shake maker. I already have a beautiful Oster blender, I didn’t need it, so I plan to donate the blender to a charity auction at my children’s school next year.
Bottom line: that was very nice of of them to send me goodies, but I was happy to help get out the word about milk products – always a personal culinary favorite of mine, especially yogurt – and how moms can help their daughters and themselves prevent osteoporosis. This is a big problem for women and easily prevented.)