Children who drink flavoured milk drink more milk and therefore have higher calcium intakes than those who do not, finds a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA) this week.
The Association suggests that as most children are not meeting current calcium recommendations, flavoured milk is a suitable alternative to milk to ensure that children get the calcium needed as they grow.
The researchers looked at data from the USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals (CSFII) to determine the typical beverage intake of 3,888 children (2,763 aged five to 11 and 1,125 aged 12-17).
The results showed that children who drink flavoured milk consume fewer nutrient-void soft drinks and fewer fruit drinks (those containing less than 10 per cent fruit juice) than children who do not drink flavoured milk. In addition, the study concluded that flavoured milk improves nutrition without increasing the intake of fat and added sugars.
"While many mothers may be concerned that flavoured milk increases their child's added sugar intake, this study shows that flavoured milk actually boosts their overall calcium intake, without increasing their total added sugar intake," said Dr Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and the study's lead author.
"By encouraging flavoured milk consumption, mothers can help reverse the trend toward soft drink and fruit drink consumption, drinks which are crowding out more nutritious beverages like milk, and negatively impacting children's diet quality," she added.
A previous study by Johnson found that children who included milk in their midday meal were the only ones to achieve the recommended calcium intake for the day.
The US government recommends that children aged four to eight need 800 milligrams of calcium a day, or the equivalent of about three glasses of milk, while children aged nine to 18 need 1,300 milligrams of calcium, or the equivalent of about four glasses of milk. In addition to calcium, milk provides eight essential nutrients, including vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.