New pediatrics study shatters milk myth-news Conf. 3/07, noon EST, Natl. Press Club

03/04/05

For strong bones, kids need exercise, sunshine, and a dairy-free diet

WASHINGTON -- In a new scientific review scheduled to appear in the March issue of the peer-reviewed journal, Pediatrics, Cornell-trained nutritionist Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., and co-authors show that dairy products do not promote bone health in children and young adults. Physical activity does have a positive impact on bone health, while evidence linking bone health with dairy product consumption is weak, at best.

"Under scientific scrutiny, the support for the milk myth crumbles. This analysis of 58 published studies shows that the evidence on which U.S. dairy intake recommendations are based is scant," says Dr. Lanou, lead author of the study. "A clear majority of the studies we examined for this review found no relationship between dairy or dietary calcium intake and measures of bone health. In the remaining reports, the evidence was sketchy.

In some, the effects on bone health were small, and in others, the results were confounded by vitamin D intake from milk fortified with vitamin D. To build strong bones and healthy bodies, children need exercise, sunshine, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that helps them maintain a healthy body weight."

The level of dairy product consumption in the United States is among the highest in the world, and yet osteoporosis and fracture rates are also among the highest.

This "calcium paradox" was an impetus for the current investigation. "We found no evidence to support the notion that milk is a preferred source of calcium," the authors conclude. Dr. Lanou is nutrition director for the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), and her co-authors are Susan E. Berkow, Ph.D., C.N.S., and Neal D. Barnard, M.D.

For a copy of the new paper published in Pediatrics, an interview with one of the authors, or b-roll of children engaged in activities that promote bone health, contact Jeanne S. McVey at 202-686-2210, ext. 316 or 415-509-1833, jeannem@pcrm.org.

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