...From the pages of Agricultural Research magazine
A study at the Children's
Nutrition Research Center
in Houston, Texas, showed
that girls who developed
good milk-drinking habits
in early childhood continue
to drink significant amounts
of milk that will ultimately
affect their bone health
Parents concerned about a young daughter's bone health should make
milk part of their child's mealtime routine. This is according to a
study by Agricultural Research Service
scientists at the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston,
Texas. The center is operated by the Baylor College of Medicine in cooperation
with Texas Children's Hospital.
Jennifer O. Fisher, a CNRC behavioral scientist and assistant professor
of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, led the study. Fisher and
her research team followed more than 180 central-Pennsylvania, 5-year-old
girls for 5 years.
Their objective was to test whether mothers' beverage choices affected
their daughters' long-term beverage choices and whether the girls' beverage-drinking
habits were linked to their bone health. This was the first study to
investigate maternal influences on beverage-drinking habits spanning
the course of middle childhood.
In previous studies, Fisher found that mothers who drank the most milk
had 5-year-old daughters who also drank more milk, but the reason for
this similarity, and whether the girls' long-term beverage habits affected
bone health, was unknown.
After following the mothers and daughters for 5 years, Fisher found
the answer: Mothers who drank more milk also served it more often to
their 5-year-old daughters at meal and snack times.
Since the focus of this research was to evaluate the role of beverage
intake on meeting calcium recommendations, only milk consumed as a beverage
was counted. Milk consumed with other foods, like cereal, or as part
of a recipe did not count towards calcium intake for this study.
Results showed that girls who regularly met their calcium needs during
the study drank an average of 13 ounces of milk per day, which was almost
twice the amount consumed by the girls who did not meet their calcium
needs. Girls consuming greater amounts of calcium had better measurements
of bone health at the end of the study.
"Though both groups drank sweetened beverages, like sodas or fruit
drinks, as they got older, the frequency with which milk was served
at meals and snacks was most closely aligned with drinking significant
amounts of milk and getting enough calcium through age 9," says
"It appears that food routines developed by mothers for their
preschool-aged children tend to lead to life-long food habits that will
ultimately affect their children's bone health when they become adults."
While milk was the main source of calcium in the diets of the girls
in this study, Fisher suggests that parents of girls who don't care
for milk can still foster healthy beverage-drinking habits. They should
routinely serve other calcium-rich drinks, like calcium-fortified orange
juice or soy milk, with meals. Children who are lactose intolerant can
often consume fermented milk products like cheese and yogurt as well
as lactose-free fluid milk.
Findings from the study were published in the April 2004 issue of the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.By Alfredo
Flores, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of Human Nutrition, an ARS National Program
(#107) described on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
"Mothers' Beverage Choices Vital to Girls' Bone Health" was published in the March 2005 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.