Obesity in the United States had reached epidemic proportions among both adults and children. There are 40 million obese and 3 million morbidly obese Americans. For adults over the age of 25, 80% are considered overweight and diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes have increased by 76% in 30-40 year olds in the past 20 years.
The news isn't much better for our children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16% of 6-19 year olds are obese. That is over 9 million children, and that number has tripled since 1980. Another 15% of 6-19 year olds are at risk of becoming obese. Since 1980, the obesity rate in preschool children has more than doubled, and the number has more than tripled in 6-11 years olds.
Obesity presents many problems for children. Childhood obesity is the leading cause of pediatric hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, increased risk of heart disease and low self-esteem. Over 70% of obese children will grow into obese adults.
But all of this can be prevented.
Including dairy products in meals not only helps kids meet nutrional recommendations, but it also provides a dietary roadmap that can help guide them for the rest of their lives. A growing body of evidence shows that adequate dairy food intake in children plays an important role in reducing the risks of several chronic diseases that can plague teenagers and adults, particularly obesity, osteoporosis and hypertension.
Managing Healty Weight With Dairy
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages children 9 years of age and older to consume three servings of dairy products each day.
A new study released in the December 2008 Journal of American College of Nutrition found that adolescents who consumed the recommended three servings of dairy foods each day had lower body mass and less body fat than those with lower dairy consumption.
The study explored the association between dairy consumption and body fat among 10,000 children and adolescents in the United States between 1988-1994 and again from 1999-2002. The results showed that 12-16 year olds with low dairy consumption had higher body mass and more body fat.
The dairy industry has taken steps to make milk more appealing to children, particularly with flavored milk. Flavored milk is a nutritious and delicious option to help children meet the three servings per day recommendation. Research has shown that children who drink milk, whether plain or flavored, consume more nutrients and have less body mass than children who do not drink milk. Also, added sugar and fat was the same in children who drink flavored milk as children who do not drink milk at all, but flavored milk drinkers did benefit from higher calcium intakes.
Importance Of Dairy In Different Stages Of Childhood
When it comes to dietary needs, children differ greatly from adults. Furthermore, children's needs for calcium vary throughout childhood and adolescence, and are generally higher than adults. Growing children need two to four times more calcium per pound of body weight than adults to support bone growth and reach peak bone mass, which can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
According to the National Institutes of Health, optimal calcium intakes are 800 mg/day for children ages 1-5; 1200 mg/day for children ages 6-10; and 1500 mg/day for ages 11-24. To meet their calcium needs, children and adolescents are encouraged to consume calcium-rich foods such as dairy products rather than supplements. Unlike supplements, dairy foods are nutrient-dense and provide substantial amounts of calcium and other essential nutrients relative to their calories.