|Wednesday, December 26th, 2007||Emily Halevy | CWK Producer|
“You develop 40 percent of your bone mass during your adolescent growth spurt. Once your adolescence is over, that is really the end of your opportunity to build bone mass. And particularly in women, you begin to lose bone mass every year.”
– Dr. Rhonda Jeffries, M.D., pediatrician
When our children are little, we repeat the same message over and over again: “Drink your milk! It’s good for your bones!” But as kids enter the middle school and high school years, many parents aren’t so insistent anymore. And that may affect their children’s health decades later.
“I usually drink diet Coke…sometimes water,” says one student.
“Probably Coke or water, but usually Coke,” says another student.
Still another high school student says, “As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen milk intake go down and down and down; it seems unfashionable to drink milk.”
According to a new study from Penn State University, kids 9 to 18 years old should drink three to four glasses of milk a day. Instead, most children in this age group are drinking less than two cups a day.
“In the first two years of life, children generally get enough calcium. In the first year they are usually on breast milk or formula, which gives them the calcium. And usually even in the second year of life they drink quite a bit of milk. But after that period of time the intake of calcium greatly goes down,” says Dr. Rhonda Jeffries, M.D., pediatrician.
Jeffries says if children and teens don’t drink enough milk, they may not get enough calcium when they need it most.
“You develop 40 percent of your bone mass during your adolescent growth spurt. Once your adolescence is over, that is really the end of your opportunity to build bone mass. And particularly in women, you begin to lose bone mass every year. So if you don’t have enough [bone mass] to begin with, it really puts you at risk for osteoporosis as you grow into adulthood,” says Jeffries.
Jeffries says that if adolescents don’t get enough calcium, their future may be similar to Edith Schraibman’s. Schraibman, 88, has osteoporosis; her bones are brittle and weak. In fact, she’s broken so many bones she’s lost count.
“You want a ballpark number? I’d say 10 to15,” says Schraibman.
Experts say there are other ways to get calcium besides drinking milk -- through mineral supplements, vitamins and low-fat dairy foods such as yogurt and cheese.
“But probably the easiest way to get the calcium requirement is to drink milk,” says Jeffries.
Ten million Americans have osteoporosis, but it is often called “the silent disease” because bone loss happens slowly, without sudden and obvious symptoms.