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Mothers Play a Powerful Role in Determining Strength of Daughters' Bones

Families Who Reinforce Lifelong Milk-Drinking Habits at Lower Risk of Fractures

WASHINGTON, May 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Of all the gifts that moms pass on to their families, one of the most important is health knowledge, especially information about bone health and osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. A Gift from Mothers to Daughters is the theme of this year's Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, which is attempting to break the cycle of generations of women suffering from this debilitating bone disease that affects 1 in 2 women over age 50.

Often considered a condition of aging, osteoporosis is actually a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences. The habits of early childhood and adolescence can significantly impact the likelihood of developing osteoporosis, which is a public health threat for 44 million Americans. Experts stress that prevention of osteoporosis needs to begin during the peak bone building years of childhood and adolescence.

"Bone health is a family issue, particularly as genetics and heredity are among the key factors that influence a person's risk of developing osteoporosis," said Robert Recker, MD, president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. "However, there are many lifestyle choices that families can make to help build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis later in life."

A Gift from Mothers to Daughters

Decades of research suggest that one of the best ways to keep fractures and osteoporosis out of your daughter's future is to encourage her to drink lowfat milk instead of sugary sodas and fruit drinks, which often take the place of milk. Currently, nine out of 10 teenage girls fail to get enough of the calcium they need. Milk and milk products are the major source of calcium in the diet and provide other important bone-building nutrients including vitamin D, protein, potassium and phosphorus. Many studies have examined milk's effect on bone health in children and adolescents.

Regularly drinking milk during the growing years is associated with greater height, bone size and bone mineralization, while research has linked skipping milk to reduced height and increased fracture rates. Forearm fracture rates of children and adolescents have increased sharply in the United States in recent years, and many researchers are worried that falling milk consumption and displacement of milk by carbonated drinks may be a factor.

"There have been over three hundred published clinical trials and metabolic studies relating calcium and dairy intake to bone status. The overwhelming majority of those studies showed that high dairy and high calcium intakes protect the skeleton and increase its strength," said Robert Heaney, MD an internationally recognized expert in the field of bone biology and calcium nutrition at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Some of the recent studies have found:

  • Children (ages 3-13) who avoided milk were found to suffer from fractures more frequently than their milk-drinking peers. The majority of the milk avoiders had family members who did not drink milk.(1)
  • In a two-year study of young children with a history of prolonged milk avoidance, the milk avoiders were more likely to suffer from osteopenia (low bone mass), were shorter, and had higher body mass indices (an indicator of body weight) compared to children who regularly drank milk.(2)
  • Regular calcium intake, especially calcium from milk, had a favorable effect on girls' bone mass and attainment of peak bone density, which are critical factors in determining risk of osteoporosis later in life.(3)
  • Moms who drink milk are likely to have daughters who drink milk, and the availability of milk at meals and snacks was associated with meeting calcium recommendations and bone mineral status. The researchers suggest that early beverage choices, including choosing milk, learned well before rapid growth could have significant impact on bone health during adolescence.(4)

"Drinking milk should be a family affair," said registered dietitian Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD, an award-winning food and health journalist and mother. "Studies show that daughters whose moms drink milk regularly consume more of it themselves - and drink less soda. So it's not just what we say but what we do, that really matters. And as moms, we need the nine essential nutrients in milk, too."

In a recent report on bone health,(5) the American Academy of Pediatrics said inadequate calcium intake is a family problem and suggested several strategies to optimize bone health of children and adolescents, including the recommendation to drink three eight-ounce glasses of milk per day (or equivalent) for children four to eight years of age, and four servings for adolescents, nine to 18 year of age.

In addition to drinking three glasses of lowfat milk a day, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that mothers help their daughters prevent osteoporosis by:

  • Engaging in regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol
  • Talking to healthcare providers about bone health
  • And having a bone-density test when appropriate

Visit for more bone health tips and tools.

About the National Milk Mustache "got milk?(R)" Campaign

The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Washington, D.C., is funded by the nation's milk processors, who are committed to increasing fluid milk consumption. The MilkPEP Board runs the National Milk Mustache "got milk?" Campaign, a multi-faceted campaign designed to educate consumers about the health benefits of milk. Lowe New York is the creative agency for the National Milk Mustache "got milk?" Campaign. For more information, go to

About the National Osteoporosis Foundation

Established in 1984, NOF is the nation's leading voluntary health organization solely dedicated to osteoporosis and bone health. Its mission is to prevent osteoporosis and related fractures, to promote lifelong bone health, to help improve the lives of those affected by osteoporosis, and to find a cure through programs of awareness, advocacy, public and health professional education and research. For more information on osteoporosis and bone health, contact NOF online at or by telephone (800) 231-4222.

(1) Goulding A, et al. Children who avoid drinking cow's milk are at increased risk for prepubertal bone fractures. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2004; 104:250-253.

(2) Rockell JEP, et al. Two-year changes in bone and body composition in young children with a history of prolonged milk avoidance. Osteoporosis International. 2005; 16:1016-1023.

(3) Fiorito LM, et al. Girls' calcium intake is associated with bone mineral content during middle childhood. Journal of Nutrition. 2006; 136:1281-1286.

(4) Fisher JO, et al. Meeting calcium recommendations during middle childhood reflects mother-daughter beverage choice and predicts bone mineral status. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004; 79:698-706.

(5) Greer FR, Krebs NF and the AAP Committee on Nutrition. Optimizing bone health and calcium intakes of infants, children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2006;117:578-585.

SOURCE Milk Processor Education Program
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