Land-Grant Institutions Help Motivate Children, Parents to Increase Calcium Intake

May is National Osteoporosis Month

May 19, 2015, 09:15 ET from Agriculture is America

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Scientists from 11 land-grant institutions and Brigham Young University are working together to help parents motivate children to boost calcium intake to strengthen bones and prevent bone fractures from occurring later in life. The scientists are members of a multistate research project titled Motivating Parents of Preadolescents (9-13 years old) to Increase Calcium Intake (W-2003), which uses data from questionnaires to develop messages and graphics for educational materials.

These taglines and graphics are tailored to help parents of preadolescents encourage their children to consume calcium-rich foods and beverages.  W-2003 is particularly keen on helping groups with higher risk of osteoporosis, including Asians and Hispanics. Osteoporosis, or the thinning of bones, leads to 1.5 million fractures each year.

"Bone acquisition, or bone building, is at its highest rate during preadolescence. An adequate consumption of calcium during these years helps to ensure strong bones and reduce risk of osteoporosis later in life. However, current research indicates that most preadolescents are not consuming enough calcium," said Dr. Carolyn Gunther, Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology and Extension State Specialist at The Ohio State University, Dr. Rickelle Richards, Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Jinan Banna, Assistant Professor in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The suggested daily amount is 1300 milligrams, which amounts to roughly three servings from the dairy group, which includes milk, yogurt, and cheese. Most children consume only 60 to 80% of the suggested daily amount.

According to W-2003's data, a variety of factors influence an early adolescent's calcium intake. The group's research showed that parents who regularly drank milk and offered milk to their children generally knew more about calcium's health benefits and encouraged higher calcium consumption in their children. School, family members, the amount of TV watched, a dislike for calcium-rich foods, and a preference for drinks other than milk were other factors that influenced children's food and beverage choices and calcium intake.

"We know that parents play a major role in the foods and beverages their kids consume, but often need help in knowing how to help their kids have healthy eating patterns," said Dr. Gunther, Dr. Richards, and Dr. Banna. "The messages our team developed are intended to help parents engage in specific practices that we know facilitate adequate calcium intake in children, such as making calcium rich foods and beverages available, setting rules and expectations for consuming calcium-rich beverages, and role modeling eating calcium-rich foods."

These materials and their messages are currently being tested for effectiveness.

The 11 participating land-grant institutions include:

  • University of Arizona
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Minnesota
  • North Carolina State University
  • Ohio State University
  • Oregon State University
  • Purdue University
  • Utah Cooperative Extension
  • Washington State University

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