When it comes to getting enough calcium, those ubiquitous milk moustache ads are not working.
A new report by a government advisory board has found that most Americans do not get enough calcium to promote growth of the healthiest bones in adolescence and to prevent the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures in old age.
The report, released Wednesday, proposes increasing the recommended daily allowance of calcium - the guideline that appears on the back of vitamin bottles and on the side of cereal boxes - for the first time since 1989.
For the elderly, the recommended amount of calcium would be boosted by 50 percent.
The proposal comes at a time when studies show Americans are consuming less and less calcium, choosing to drink soda pop over a glass of milk and eating french fries over calcium-rich vegetables like broccoli.
“I don’t think these numbers should alarm people, necessarily. I don’t think we have an epidemic of calcium inadequacy in the United States,” said Suzanne Murphy, a nutrition professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and one of 30 scientists who reviewed hundreds of nutritional studies to come up with the proposed guidelines, issued by the Institute of Medicine.
“People should keep in mind that these numbers are purposely set high,” she added, “But if you want to be pretty sure” that your bones remain strong, Murphy said, “then follow these numbers.”
The report recommends that the federal government undertake a public education campaign to change people’s eating habits, encourage the food industry to fortify more foods, or boost the use of some supplements.
A teenager or person over 50 would generally meet the proposed daily guidelines with three cups of milk or its equivalent in cheese and yogurt, as well as one helping each of turnip greens, broccoli and green beans, for instance. By contrast, two cups of milk and a helping of turnip greens might suffice under the existing standards.
“The reason the guidelines went up so much in the older groups is that there’s a lot of new scientific evidence that you can reduce bone loss and reduce your risk of fracturing if you increase your intake of calcium as an older person. It’s amazing that it’s just not too late,” said Bess Dawson-Hughes, a nutrition and aging specialist at Tufts University. “Our job now is to try to get people aware and get serious about their calcium nutrition. We really have to get some action on this.”
The proposed guidelines also increase daily allowances for magnesium for adults and suggest doubling of the amount of vitamin D that older people get. And for the first time, the report bases infant nutrition needs on breast milk, rather than infant formula, the standard used in the past.
The $500,000 report is the first of several to be funded by the FDA, the National Institutes of Health and the USDA. The aim is to review the latest studies and revise all the nutritional guidelines and recommended daily allowances, last set in 1989, of all major vitamins and minerals.
xxxx CALCIUM SOURCES Sources of calcium include milk and other dairy products, grains, soybeans, Chinese cabbage, kale, calcium enriched orange juice and broccoli. Although spinach, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, beans, seeds, nuts, corn tortillas and white bread have calcium, it is harder for the body to absorb it from these sources.