CHILDREN who avoid milk and don’t get enough calcium-rich substitutes may face an increased risk of breaking a bone. Calcium, along with vitamin D and other nutrients, is essential for building and maintaining strong bones.
Dairy products are the primary source of calcium; other sources include orange juice, green leafy vegetables and mineral supplements. In a study of 50 children considered “milk avoiders,” researchers from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, found that 16 suffered at least one bone fracture by the age of nine, Health News reported.
The children in this study were not getting calcium-containing milk substitutes. Overall, half of the children did not drink milk because of symptoms such as stomach upset or skin irritation. In other cases, children disliked the taste of milk, or their families simply didn’t buy it. Of the 50 children in the study, 16 suffered a total of 22 bone fractures, mostly due to minor falls during play. The forearm was the most common fracture and most of the kids who broke their forearms were overweight. In fact, nearly half of the milk avoiders were overweight, and the combination of low bone density and high body mass probably contributed to the children’s fracture risk.
Milk and dairy products do supply very important nutrients to children, and if no substitutes are offered, the children who avoid milk may be missing out on their health. Many milk avoiders might happily drink flavoured cow’s milk or consume cheese or yogurt. It is for the parents of such children to decide how to best meet their children’s needs for calcium, protein and other nutrients. The researchers also pointed out the importance of regular exercise, which helps in building bone and getting enough time outdoors to boost the body’s synthesis of vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.