Study links dairy to better bones in kids

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dairy, Dairy industry, Nutrition

Long-term dairy consumption, supplemented with other protein-rich foods such as meats can help maintain improved bone health in children, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine analysed data on the dietary intake of young children over a twelve-year period and the impact that dairy had on their bones during the time.

The dairy industry continues to promote itself as a vital part of a healthy diet, despite some over high consumption of milk-based goods due to the presence of saturated fats.

Findings

Adolescents that consumed two or more servings of dairy on a daily basis were found to have higher bone mineral content and density, according to the study.

When taking into account other factors that can influence bone development, such as physical activity levels and body growth, researchers said that the average bone mineral content remained 175 grammes higher for children consuming two servings of dairy a day.

In the findings, which have been published online in the The Journal of Pediatrics,​ head researcher Dr Lynn Moore said the study would help parents better understand the long-term nutritional impact of dairy in young people.

“Children who consumed two or more servings of dairy and four ounces of meat or other non-dairy protein had bone mineral contents over 300 grams higher than those children with lower intakes of both dairy and other proteins,"​ she stated.

Moore claims that the research shows that dairy can now be promoted as an important tool in bone health amongst children.

“Dairy is a key source of proteins, calcium, and other micronutrients including phosphorus and vitamin D."

Methodology

For the research, Moore and her colleagues reviewed data of 106 adolescents initially aged between three and five years of age complied from the Framingham Children's Study over twelve years.

During this period, the respondents’ parents were required to complete food dairies that recorded everything drunk and eaten by their child over several days each year.

The information from these diaries, combined with information from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was the used to calculate the average daily intake of dairy and other foods. Once the twelve years were over, the authors then assessed the bone health of the participants.

Balancing diet

The dairy industry has moved to promote the products as a generally beneficial part of diet for a variety of areas including heart and dental health.

While the general health messages emanating from the dairy industry have been supported by health organisations, dieticians continue to stress that a balanced diet and moderate consumption was the best option to ensure health.

This was the message from national health charity The British Heart Foundation, which stressed that no one type of food or beverage product alone could ensure a healthy diet.

Source: The Journal of Pediatrics

"Effects of Average Childhood Dairy Intake on Adolescent Bone Health"Published online, DOI: 10.1016/j/jpeds.2008.05.016Authors: Lynn Moore, Loring Bradlee, Di Gao, Martha R. Singer, et al.

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