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Dairy Council Digest Archives


The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (1) recommends 3 cups/day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products (e.g., cheese, yogurt) as part of a healthful diet for children 9 years and older and for some younger children who are physically active. For sedentary children ages 2 through 8 years, the recommendation is 2 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products per day (1).

Milk, cheese, and yogurt are naturally nutrient-rich foods providing calcium, potassium, other minerals, vitamins, and protein essential for children’s growth and development (2,3). Studies in children and adolescents demonstrate that intake of dairy products improves the overall nutritional quality of the diet (4). Also, consuming dairy foods has a beneficial role in a variety of chronic diseases (5,6). Intake of recommended servings of calcium or calcium-rich foods such as dairy foods in childhood and adolescence helps to achieve genetically determined peak bone mass, reduce the risk of bone fractures during growth, and protect against osteoporosis and related fractures in later adult years (6).

Childhood overweight has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. (7,8). Yet, despite the growing girth of American youth, many children are undernourished (9). Children’s and adolescents’ failure to consume recommended servings from the major food groups, in particular from the vegetable, fruit, and dairy groups (9), contributes to nutrient shortages such as vitamins D and E, folate, potassium, magnesium, and, most significantly, calcium (1,10,11).


Studies have shown that intake of dairy foods can increase the nutritional quality of children's diets without adverse effects on body weight/fat.


Overweight children are at increased risk of being overweight or obese as adults (7). Also, overweight increases risk of chronic diseases during childhood as well as in adulthood (7,12,13). Many overweight children and adolescents have impaired glucose tolerance, a condition that precedes the development of type 2 diabetes (14,15), and approximately 30% of overweight children have hypertension (16). Overweight and high blood pressure are also components of metabolic
syndrome (also called insulin resistance syndrome), a condition in which multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes cluster in the same individual (12,17,18). The prevalence of metabolic syndrome in adolescence is approximately 4% overall, but it reaches 30% to 50% in overweight adolescents (12).

As a result of the dramatic increase in the prevalence of overweight in children and adolescents and its co-morbidities, and findings that this population has low intakes of several essential nutrients, particularly calcium, attention has focused on promoting a healthy weight in children and youth and improving their nutrient intake (7,13,19-21).
This Digest reviews dairy’s role in children’s nutrient intake, bone health, body weight/fatness, blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. In addition, it identifies some efforts to increase children’s dairy food intake.

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Table of Contents:


Dairy’s Health Benefits

Getting three servings of low-fat or fat-free, nutrient-rich dairy foods every day plays a crucial role in helping to promote bone health, healthy blood pressure and a healthy weight.

Dairy’s Unique Nutrient Combination

Together, low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt deliver a unique combination of nutrients. Learn more about these nine essential nutrients and their role in building strong bones, a healthy diet, and more.