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Eating Dairy as Child Builds Teen Bones

Study Shows Kids Who Eat Dairy Have Stronger Bones as Teenagers
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Childhood Dairy Intake and Bone Health

Aug. 13, 2008 -- Children who drink milk and consume other dairy products are likely to have stronger bones in adolescence, according to a new study. For even stronger bones, kids should also be getting plenty of meat or other proteins.

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, shows that children who on average consume two or more servings of dairy per day end up with significantly stronger bones in their teens. The dairy food group includes milk, yogurt, and cheese. One serving is a cup of milk or yogurt, 1 and 1/2 ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

The researchers also looked at the consumption level of dairy in combination with other food groups such as meats and other proteins, grains, and fruits and vegetables. Children who consume four or more servings of meat or other proteins also have stronger bones than those who don't. The strongest bones belong to the teens who consume at least two servings of dairy and four servings of other proteins.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine analyzed data from the Framingham Children's Study. Families enrolled in the study were given food diaries to complete for the child and asked to record everything the child ate for several days each year. As the child got older, he or she took more responsibility for recording his or her own eating habits. Researchers looked at information from 106 children, 3 to 5 years old at the start of the study, for 12 years. They measured bone strength based on bone mineral content, bone area, and bone density.

"The findings of this study confirm the importance of a diet rich in dairy and other protein sources on adolescent bone mass," the researchers write.

The study was funded by grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Dairy Council. The sponsors were not directly involved in the study.

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