New study suggests schools should add nondairy beverages to the lunch menu

Soymilk proves a popular option for lactose intolerant students

WASHINGTON -- Offering soymilk to elementary school students boosts the number of children who select a calcium-rich beverage in the lunch line and reduces the amount of saturated fat consumed from calcium-rich beverages, according to a study in April's Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Almost a quarter of students were choosing soymilk over cow's milk by the end of the four-week study, which was conducted at three ethnically diverse elementary schools in Florida. Total calcium-rich beverage selection increased more than 4 percent, and calcium consumption per gram of saturated fat consumed from calcium-rich beverages rose from 194 milligrams to 237 milligrams. The findings suggest that schools across the country should add soymilk to the lunch menu.

"Soymilk has major health advantages over cow's milk," said Jennifer Reilly, R.D., a Cancer Project dietitian and the study's lead author. "It avoids the problem of lactose intolerance and skips the 'bad' fats--and kids seem to like it."

The majority of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans are lactose intolerant. Enriched soymilk has no lactose and little or no saturated fat, but it has as much calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D as dairy milk. Dairy milk is the single largest source of saturated fat in children's diets, according to a National Cancer Institute study. Studies have linked ovarian cancer and prostate cancer to the consumption of dairy products.

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Most U.S. schools do not offer soymilk, in part because the National School Lunch Program doesn't offer a reimbursable alternative to dairy milk without a note from a doctor. Introducing children to soymilk may help them reduce their risk of cancer and heart disease. For a copy of the new study or an interview with Ms. Reilly, please contact Susanne Forte at 202-244-5038, ext. 339, or sforte@cancerproject.org.

The Cancer Project is a collaborative effort of physicians, researchers, and nutritionists who have joined together to educate the public about the benefits of a healthy diet for cancer prevention and survival. Based in Washington, D.C., The Cancer Project is an affiliate of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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