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News / June 18, 2009

Calcium intake poor in young adults

by Guy Hiscott

A study has revealed that young people reduce their intake of calcium and dairy products as they enter their 20s.

During the transition from middle adolescence to young adulthood, females and males respectively reduced their daily calcium intakes by an average of 153mg and 194mg. In addition, during middle adolescence, more than 72% of females and 55% of males had calcium intakes lower than the recommended level.

The researchers at the University of Minnesota found that reports of mealtime milk availability, positive health/nutrition attitudes, taste preference for milk, healthy weight control behaviours and peer support for healthy eating when the participants were teenagers were associated with higher calcium intake in young adulthood. Conversely, time spent watching television and lactose intolerance during middle adolescence were associated with lower calcium intake in young adulthood.

Writing in the article, Dr Nicole Larson of the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues state: ‘The findings of this study indicate that future interventions designed to promote improvements in calcium intake should encourage the families of adolescents to serve milk at meals.

‘In addition, interventions targeted to female adolescents should build concern for healthful eating, develop confidence in skills for healthful eating and reduce exposure to television advertisements.

‘Interventions targeted to male adolescents should emphasise opportunities to taste calcium-rich food, the promotion of healthful weight management behaviours and supporting peers to engage in healthful eating behaviours.’

Drawing data from Project EAT (Eating Among Teens), a prospective, population-based study designed to examine determinants of dietary intake and weight status, the responses of over 1,500 young adults (45% male) were analysed by investigators from the University of Minnesota.

The article, Calcium and dairy intake: longitudinal trends during the transition to young adulthood and correlates of calcium intake appears in the July/August 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.