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Body-conscious girls wrong to ditch dairy: study

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Fat-phobic girls are mistakenly shunning calcium-rich dairy foods, just at the time when their young bodies most need it.

A recent Canadian study found no difference in changes in per cent body fat over two years between girls eating varying amounts of calcium from food.

The study, published in the journal Obesity1, found girls concerned with body shape and size had a lower intake of calcium from dairy foods.

Forty five healthy girls were weighed when they were an average age of 10.5 years, and then again two years later. Per cent body fat and eating attitudes were also tracked.

Researcher Dr Susan Barr suggested girls preoccupied with body shape might be more likely to exclude calcium-rich dairy foods, which they perceive as fattening.

But Dairy Australia dietitian Maree Garside said dietary advice recommended dairy foods as a key source of calcium and other essential nutrients.

"Growth and development are a part of childhood, and weight gain and increasing body size are normal components of this process. Children need to eat enough nutritious foods to be able to grow," said Ms Garside.

"Dairy foods play a vital role in growth and development. An adequate intake should be encouraged in children, regardless of their weight. Most girls should aim to eat three serves of dairy foods each day," said Ms Garside.

The last National Nutrition Survey found 56 per cent of Australian girls aged 9 to 13 years did not meet the recommended dietary intake for calcium.2

Osteoporosis Australia CEO Judy Stenmark said this was a concern for long-term bone health.

"The adolescent years are times of rapid growth and are crucial for maximising peak bone strength, but many girls aren’t doing the right things to build strong bones for life," said Ms Stenmark.

Reduced-fat milk, yogurt and cheese contain as much calcium as regular dairy foods, Ms Garside added.


  1. Barr SI (2007) Calcium and body fat in peripubertal girls: cross-sectional and longitudinal observations. Obesity 15, 1302-10.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (1995) National Nutrition Survey 1995/6. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

(Source: Maree Garside : Dairy Australia : October 2007)

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Posted On: 28 September, 2007
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


Created by: myVMC