Calcium and milk

fiona_boyle

Osteoporosis is a silent disease affecting more than half of women and nearly a third of men over the age of 60 in New Zealand. World Osteoporosis day in 2010 is being held on the 20th October.

Osteoporosis has no symptoms and the disease offers its victims no warning until it is well established. Often the first sign that you have osteoporosis is when you break a bone. It is mistakenly thought of as a disease only affecting older people.

However young people can get it too. In the first 30 years of life it is very important to build a good stockpile of calcium for bone strength. This can help reduce the risk of developing weak bones in the later years of life.

Osteoporosis means “porous bone”. Bones become thin and lose their strength, meaning they are more likely to fracture.

One of the best ways to prevent or reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis is to ensure you have a good intake of dietary calcium.

The table below shows how much calcium we should be having in our diet each day.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium for NZ are:

 

Girls & boys

4 – 8 years

14 – 18 years

16 – 18 years

 

700 mg/day

1000 – 1300 mg/day

1300 mg/day
Women

19 – 50 years

51+ years

 

1000 mg/day

1300 mg/day
Men

19 – 70 years

70+ years

 

1000 mg/day

1300 mg/day

The best dietary source of calcium is from our dairy products. If you are not a great milk drinker, then read my other related article, Osteoporosis, which gives other food sources for calcium. Today the variety of milks you can buy seems to be changing all the time. Many people I see are confused about what is the best choice for them. So lets look at some of the common milk types you can buy today.

General Milk Type Top colour Average Calcium content

in 250 ml serve

Average Fat content

in 250 ml serve

Homogenised milk Dark blue 288 mg 8.25g
Lite Blue milk

eg. Anchor lite / Meadow Fresh balance

Light blue 346mg 3.75g
Trim Dark green 362mg 1.25g
Anchor Super trim Light green 375mg 0.25g
Extra calcium

eg. Meadow Fresh

Calci-trim* / Anchor extra

Yellow top 500mg 0.4g
Sun Latte milk 400mg 0.2g
So Good regular 300 mg 8.5g
So Good Lite 300 mg 2.3g

* Meadow Fresh Calci-trim also has vitamin D added to assist with calcium absorption.

Different milk brands may vary in their composition so it is still important to read labels. Generally the lower fat milks have a higher calcium content.

For children and teenagers a good calcium intake is crucial. As milk provides both carbohydrate and protein it is a good food and will help satisfy the appetite while soft drinks contribute nothing in the way of nutrition. Some milks today are marketed specifically targeting children. Milks such as Calci-kids (Meadow Fresh) and Anchor Mega have vitamin D and Vitamin A added to look after bone health.

From the age of two onwards it is acceptable to change children over to a low fat milk. Before this the fat in milk is an important source of energy and fat soluble nutrients for them.

If you find it hard changing from a full fat milk to a lower fat milk, then try the ‘lite blue’ milks first, and then progress on to the ‘green’ or ‘yellow’ milks. To achieve the recommended daily intake of around 1,000-1,300 mg calcium per day you need to be choosing a calcium rich product to achieve this.

The idea that milk is fattening is not true especially if low fat dairy products are chosen. In fact, some studies are showing the benefit of including low fat milk in the diet to assist with weight loss.

 

Fiona Boyle

Fiona Boyle is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. She runs a private practice and gives nutrition advice to individuals and families to help meet their health needs and personal goals.

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