Study: Dairy May Not Build Strong Bones in Kids
But Dairy Industry Says Science Is on Its Side
March 7, 2005 -- A newly published study shows dairy foods have little to do
with building strong bones in children and young adults. But a dairy industry
spokesperson says the findings are tainted by the biases of the
The review of previous studies, published in the March issue of the journal
Pediatrics, was conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
The group is best known for opposing animal research. It is also strongly
pro-vegetarian and advocates elimination of all animal products, including
milk, from the diet.
In a release issued Monday to coincide with a Washington, D.C., news
conference, the group blasted that
recommend drinking three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk a day.
A serving of dairy is equal to:
- An 8 oz glass of milk
- 8 oz of yogurt
- 1.5 oz of natural cheese (such as cheddar)
- 2 oz of processed cheese (such as American)
Low-fat or nonfat dairy products have as much, if not more calcium, than
"Under scientific scrutiny, the support for the milk myth crumbles,"
the statement reads. "This analysis ... shows that the evidence on which
the U.S. dairy intake recommendations are based is scant."
Nutritionists Go Head to Head
Of 37 studies reviewed, 27 were found to show no relationship between dairy
or dietary calcium and bone health in children and young adults. The remaining
studies found only a small association.
The researchers concluded that physical activity early in life appears to be
a stronger predictor of bone health than dairy consumption.
Calcium is necessary for the development of strong bones during childhood.
Strong bones help prevent the , which
can lead to fractures.
"From my perspective as a nutritionist I think it is really important
for parents to understand that milk is not a necessary food for children,"
study researcher Amy Joy Lanou, PhD, RD, tells WebMD. "If children can't
drink milk for health or other reasons their bones are going to be just
A nutritionist with the National Dairy Council says she couldn't disagree
"There is a clear positive link between calcium and dairy and good bone
health," Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD, tells WebMD. "No one food is a magic
bullet for preventing osteoporosis, but including calcium in the diet has been
shown to be helpful down the road. It is part of an overall healthy lifestyle
that includes physical activity."
Segrave-Daly says the studies reviewed by Lanou and colleagues paint an
incomplete picture of the science regarding calcium and strong bones.
Dairy: More Than Calcium
But Wisconsin pediatrician Frank Greer, MD, says the science is not as clear
as the dairy group suggests.
On its web site, the Dairy Council cites reviews done by its own researchers
showing an overwhelmingly positive association between eating calcium-rich
foods and bone health.