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Study: Dairy May Not Build Strong Bones in Kids

But Dairy Industry Says Science Is on Its Side

Dairy: More Than Calcium continued...

"(Studies) indicate that milk intake during childhood and adolescence is associated with greater bone mass and protection against fractures in later years," the Dairy Council's bone health summary states.

Greer tells WebMD it is not clear if calcium intake during childhood and adolescence has a long-term impact on bone health.

"The thinking has been that if bone mineral density is as high as possible in adolescence then that will help protect against osteoporosis when someone is 65," he says. "But we really don't know if that is the case."

Greer says physical activity may be more important for promoting good bone health than calcium intake. Heredity may be the most important single predictor of all.

"No one can tell you unequivocally which of these three things is most important for preventing osteoporosis," he says. "It is not clear if calcium intake in early life influences bone density in women with strong hereditary risk factors."

But Greer says he supports the new government guidelines calling on Americans to drink more milk. He even serves as the American Academy of Pediatrics representative for the Dairy Council's "3-A-Day for Stronger Bones" campaign.

"You get a lot more from dairy products than just calcium," he says. "It is our major source of vitamin D in the diet and a good source of vitamin A and potassium. We know that children and adolescents are drinking a lot more soda than milk, so anything we can do to change that would be a good thing."

Calcium From Veggies

An 8 oz glass of dairy contains about 300 mg of calcium. But if dairy isn't your thing, you can get your calcium from vegetables.

These vegetables have the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk:


  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked kale
  • 2 1/4 cups of cooked broccoli
  • 8 cups of cooked spinach

How Much Calcium Do You Need?

The amount of calcium you need is based on your age. Calcium requirements are especially high in older people due to the increased risk of the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis. However, research suggests that building bones at an early age and keeping them strong is vital to having strong bones as you age.

Recommended Calcium Intake
AgeCalcium (mg/day)
0 to 6 months210
7 to 12 months270
1 to 3 years500
4 to 8 years800
9 to 13 years1300
14 to 18 years1000
19 to 50 years1000
51+ years1200

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