Milk marketers may want to look toward a new target audience.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Yale University shows that older men and women consume less calcium through their diets than younger adults, and may need to adjust their food intake or increase their use of calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis.
The research, published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, looked at calcium and overall food intake in 9,475 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2006.
By age 50, daily calcium intake through food for most individuals, especially women, is substantially below recommended levels established by the Institute of Medicine, according to biostatistician Stephen J. Walsh, an associate professor in the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing and the study’s principal investigator.
“The situation becomes progressively worse across the 60-, 70-, and 80-year age groups of Americans,” Walsh says in a statement released by UConn. “Inadequate consumption of calcium increases the risk of osteoporosis — a weakening of bones that occurs with aging and that can lead to disability and death.”
As you know, calcium is a mineral found in dairy products such as low fat milk, cheese, and yogurt, and green leafy vegetables. More than 99 percent of the calcium people absorb from foods is found in bones and teeth. If you don’t eat enough calcium, your body leaches calcium from your bones and over time this decreases bone mass, leading to disease such as osteoporosis.
While plenty of research has shown the importance of calcium in maintaining proper bone health, the UConn-Yale study was unique in that it evaluated both dietary and supplemental calcium intake in the U.S. population across different adult age groups and compared the data to overall eating habits and food, or energy, intake among the groups.
The researchers say one reason many older individuals aren’t getting enough calcium may be that people tend to eat less food as they age.
Even though the study showed that as men and women aged, calcium supplement use increased, it was not sufficient in meeting recommended levels of calcium intake. Men 81 years of age and older were still consuming about 23 percent less calcium and women of that age group 14 percent less calcium than men and women age 19 to 30, according to median dietary calcium intake figures drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.