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Kids Breaking More Bones

Berkeley CA, 23 March 2004
Source: California Milk Processor Board

There has been a troubling rise in the number of children arriving at emergency rooms and doctor's offices with broken bones. According to a new study of pediatricians and orthopedic surgeons released today, more than 40% of doctors have observed an increase in fractures among young people under 18. This finding is corroborated by two other medical studies—including a recent Mayo Clinic study—which found the rate of broken arms has climbed by more than 50% in girls and 30% in boys since 1970.

"What used to be bruises are more likely to be breaks nowadays," says Dr. Celia Brown, MD. "Kids just aren't developing adequate bone mass."

Doctors Say Soft Drinks Poor Substitute for Milk

Nearly half of doctors (46%) surveyed in this most recent study think substituting soft drinks for milk is an important cause. Forty-two percent of doctors cited low milk consumption—and inadequate calcium intake—for the increase in broken bones among kids. The rise in popularity of sports—like skateboarding and soccer—was also considered to be a factor.

"What happens in the first 20 years of life is critical for building bone mass," continues Dr. Brown. "It's vital that kids get enough calcium from real foods, like milk, early on."

Over the last 20 to 30 years, there's been a shift away from milk as the standard drink at meals. Government studies show an alarming 86% of teen girls and 64% of teen boys aren't getting enough calcium daily—lacking the equivalent of four glasses of milk per day.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) calls it a "calcium crisis." They stress that low or fat-free milk is the preferred calcium source because [1]:

  • Milk has a high calcium content.
  • Calcium in milk is easily absorbed by the body.
  • Milk contains other nutrients, like vitamin D, A, B12, potassium and magnesium—all essential to healthy bone development.

One or two milk servings every day simply isn't enough," stresses Dr. Brown. "Parents must be willing to fight the soda and junk food battle and really insist children get enough milk and eat right.

"It doesn't have to be plain white milk out-of-a glass," says Dr. Brown. "Hot chocolate, real milk-based smoothies, and soups made with milk are just a few of the ways parents can get kids to drink more. And we know they'll drink it if parents insist."

According to this new medical study, there was near unanimity (95%) among doctors about the importance of milk. This comes on the heels of a study in New Zealand, recently published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, which found that kids who don't drink milk are at much greater risk of breaking their bones than their milk-drinking counterparts.[2]

About the Research

This survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation via the Internet with 150 physicians in California, equally divided among pediatricians, primary care physicians and orthopedic surgeons. The Greenfield Internet Panel was used for the study—conducted January 6-14, 2004—on behalf of the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB).

About Dr. Celia Brown, MD

Dr. Celia Brown is a graduate of Cornell University, and UCLA Medical School. She is Board Certified in Family Medicine. She currently practices in Woodland Hills, California where she does general Family Medicine and cosmetic dermatology. Dr. Brown teaches on the UCLA clinical faculty. She is author of a book of general medical tips for the public, entitled Doctor's Little Book of Answers.


[1] www.nichd.nih.gov/new/releases/calcium_crisis.cfm?from=milk. December 2001.

[2] Goulding A, et al. "Children Who Avoid Drinking Cow's Milk Are at Increased Risk for Prepubertal Bone Fractures." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2004; 104(2):250-253.


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