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Soda May Be Too Popular With Teens

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
September 5, 2002

Got milk? Apparently many teen-aged girls don’t have enough. A new study by Agricultural Research Service nutritionist Shanthy A. Bowman, based on survey data, notes that milk consumption decreases as adolescent girls grow older. Out of 732 girls aged 12 through 19 years, the 12-year-olds had the highest milk intake, with 78 percent drinking milk. The 12-year-olds also had the lowest soda intake--nine ounces on a given day.

Conversely, the 19-year-olds had the lowest milk intake, with only 36 percent drinking milk, and a high soda intake of 14 ounces a day. Those who did not drink milk at all had inadequate intakes of vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, the last three of which are most important for building strong bones.

The study is based on an analysis of dietary data taken from USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals for the years 1994-1996. The data are collected and managed by ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Another trend noted in the study is also of concern. Bowman analyzed data from staggered USDA Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys spanning four decades. From the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, milk intakes for adolescent girls aged 12 to 19 years as a whole decreased by 36 percent, while intakes of sodas and fruit drinks nearly doubled. Although other beverages were also consumed, the mean soda consumption far exceeded that of other beverages.

At a time when school districts are reevaluating whether to continue offering sodas, the report urges school food-service providers to make low-fat and nonfat milk prominently available. Bowman also encourages those who do not enjoy milk to seek calcium-fortified foods, such as juices, cereals and soy products. A calcium-content listing of 1,145 foods is available online by going to:

Visitors can then click on either button next to “calcium.”

Bowman, with the ARS Community Nutrition Research Group, Beltsville, Md., is the author of the study, which appears in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

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