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Calcium intake can carry lifelong consequences

Many of us have known for years that one of the best ways to keep our bones and teeth healthy is to get plenty of calcium in our diets, but recent studies suggests that drinking milk may play an even bigger role in keeping our bodies in good health.

"We've always known that calcium is important to bone health, but research continues to show us that one of the easiest ways to keep fractures and diseases like osteoporosis at bay is to replace sugary sodas and fruit drinks with lowfat milk," explained LaDonna Dunlop, a Registered Dietitian and the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service. "This is especially important in young women who want to have healthy bones well into their later years."

Other recent reports show that children ages 3 to 13 who avoided milk were found to suffer from fractures more often than other children who drank milk regularly, Dunlop said.

Children with a history of avoiding milk also can suffer from low bone mass and a higher body mass than children who drank milk regularly, Dunlop also stated.

"What we have found over and over again," Dunlop said, "is that parents who drink milk are more likely to have children who drink milk."

Once considered a side effect of aging, osteoporosis is really a pediatric disease that carries consequences well into aging.

"What that means is that it matters how much calcium our children get in their diets," Dunlop stressed. "If children, especially girls, are going to prevent osteoporosis later in their lives, they have to get calcium in their diets now. And, by fare, the easiest and most effective way to do that is to drink milk."

And study after study indicates that regular calcium intake from milk does have a definite impact on bone and teeth health, Dunlop stated.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported that inadequate calcium intake is a "family problem" that needs to be remedied at a family level.

"Everyone in the family needs to get their recommended servings of calcium," Dunlop stated. For adults and children ages nine and older, that's three eight-ounce glasses of milk per day or the equivalent."

In recent years, there have been more than 300 published clinical trials and studies that link calcium and dairy intake to stronger bone mass, no matter what the age.

"It's just a fact that drinking milk and increasing calcium intakes in the diet protect the skeleton and increase its strength," Dunlop stated. "And the earlier our children start drinking milk and getting the calcium they need in their diets, the better."

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