Calcium makes bones and teeth dense and strong. lt also plays a role in blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in the body is found in the bones and teeth. Calcium is not only important to infants but also to adolescents and adults, as well. During adolescence the need for calcium is high because 45% of their bone mass is formed during puberty.
Sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, small fishes with bones that can be eaten, and milk and milk products. Milk is the most important source because it contains highly absorbable calcium. It is usually consumed by infants, toddlers and younger children, but it is not a popular drink among the teenagers.
The 7th National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research lnstitute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) in 2008 revealed that there is a low consumption of milk among the adolescents, only 15% of males and 29% of females are drinking milk. This low milk consumption is accompanied by a high intake of caffeine rich beverages such as coffee and softdrinks.
The 7th NNS listed the top 30 most commonly consumed food items of adolescents aged 13 to 19 years old, were coffee and softdrinks landed in the 6th and 7th spots, respectively. Consumption of milk and milk products, however were not even in the list. Caffeine can lower calcium absorption in the body and as a result, an adolescent can have lower calcium in the body because of low calcium intake and high caffeine intake.
Based on the 7th NNS, calcium is the least consumed nutrient by adolescents with only 0.33% meeting the 80% of the dietary requirements for calcium. It is important for adolescents to continue drinking milk because at this stage, the body is continually undergoing bone building until about the age of 30 years.
What are the consequences of not getting enough calcium by this age?
As people age, bone loss exceeds bone-building. Thus, older people are more at risk to osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and more prone to fractures. Milk should be a part of the daily diet from childhood to old age to prevent weak bones and frequent fractures later in life.
Milk drinking should also be vigorously promoted among teenagers because it is during this time that they learn to drink other beverages such as softdrinks and coffee, which often replaces milk in their diet.
If milk drinking is not practiced, it is equally important to consume calcium-rich foods as advocated by the 2012 Nutrition Guidelines for Filipinos (NGF).
Let us follow message number five of the NGF which states: "Consume milk, milk products and other calcium-rich foods, such as small fish and shellfish, everyday for healthy bones and teeth."
For more information on food and nutrition, contact:
Dr. Mario V. Capanzana
Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute
Department of Science and Technology
General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City
Telefax: 837-2934 and 827-3164
Telephone No.:8372071 local 2296
FNRI-DOST S&T Media Service PR– CELINA ANN Z. JAVIER