Milk isn’t just for children

PEOPLE need to take calcium throughout their lives and not just in their early years, as many people falsely believe, a leading nutritionist said yesterday.

“You need a lot of calcium during your growth years to build strong bones, a bit less during the middle years to keep your bones strong, and much more later in life to prevent bone loss,” said Eleni Andreou, President of the Cyrus Dietetics Association.

“Recent research has shown that people who take calcium throughout their lives have greater bone density and are less likely to develop the crippling bone disease osteoporosis.”

Osteoporosis is a condition whereby bones become fragile and have a tendency to break or fracture, she said. The most common osteoporosis fracture sites are the vertebrae, wrists, upper arms, pelvis and hips.

Research maintains that calcium is a mineral that helps build strong bones and teeth and that 99 per cent of this mineral is stored there. The remaining one per cent is found in your blood and soft tissue and is essential for life and health. “Without this one per cent of calcium, your muscles would not contract correctly, your blood would not clot and your nerves would not be able to carry messages to and from your brain efficiently,” said Andreou.

It is mainly the calcium in your diet that spares, or protects, the calcium in your bones, according to GlaxoSmithKline – one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.

That is why, if you do not take enough calcium in the food you eat, your body will take what it needs from the stores in your body. However, over a long period of time, this calcium depletion from peoples’ bones and teeth is likely to lead to osteoporosis.

Both the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommend adequate calcium and Vitamin D intake, regular aerobic exercise, no smoking and reduced alcohol consumption as ways of preventing osteoporosis.

They said: “The most concentrated calcium sources are dairy products, which sometimes contain vitamin D. Vitamin D is also found in egg yolks, salt water fish, liver, and most importantly, Vitamin D fortified milk.”

Andreou agreed with these findings: “Even though you can take in calcium through other food sources, you normally have to eat a lot more in quantity for the same amount found in milk.”

A new study of dietary calcium, carried out by researchers at Sheffield University, suggests that calcium benefits from milk simply cannot be gained from other methods such as calcium supplements, because in the latter case bone density increase disappeared as soon as the supplements were no longer being taken.

“Rather than truly increasing bone density, the calcium supplements likely suppress bone remodelling,” whereas previous research suggests that bone density obtained from calcium in milk is maintained over time.

Therefore, according to Richard Eastell, chairman of National Osteoporosis Society: “This underlines the need for children and teenagers to take plenty of milk in their diet if they are to build bone strong enough to last a lifetime.”

That is why the introduction of Calcium Plus milk on the Cypriot market is a positive option for people who want to take in their calcium recommended daily allowance (RDA) of around 1200mg, but do not necessarily like drinking a lot of milk.

“With only two glasses of Calcium Plus,” Eve Lanitis, director of Lanitis Bros Ltd, “you fulfil 105 per cent of your calcium RDA”.

Lanitis’ Calcium Plus – launched yesterday – is fresh, semi-skimmed milk fortified with 40 per cent more calcium and enriched with magnesium and Vitamin D, which ensures that the calcium is efficiently absorbed.

Although some doctors believe you should avoid milk because of the extra calories and saturated fat content, Calcium Plus only contains 1.5 grams of fat and 52 calories per 100 millilitres.

According to Andreou, Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and helps deposit them in bones and teeth.

“That is why Vitamin D’s presence in milk is very important,” she said. “In fact, in the United States, statistics showed a 15 per cent reduction in osteoporosis in children who drink vitamin D fortified milk.”

Although vitamin D is found in sunlight, it is not efficiently absorbed by children and elderly individuals and also poses skin cancer risks, Andreou pointed out.

“I believe that the most effective form of vitamin D intake and the way it best serves as a calcium absorber is in milk,” she said.

“Milk is a fundamental part of anyone’s diet,” stressed Andreou. “Whatever the age everyone needs a sufficient daily intake of at least two to three glasses of milk so as to ensure calcium levels do not drop and promote bone density growth and maintenance.”