Drinking your milk is not just a good idea for kids. Every year, weakened bones account for approximately 1.5 million bone fractures – 300,000 of them hip fractures, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Getting enough calcium to keep your bones healthy and strong is especially important as you age. Drinking milk is one way for people 50 years old or older to get enough calcium to support their bone health.
Milk is one of the best sources of dietary calcium that your body can readily absorb, although it is not perfect. Milk contains high levels of both calcium and vitamin D, which are more effective when taken together. Whole milk and low-fat milk also contains saturated fat, which can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease. However, drinking nonfat milk offers you all of the benefits without the drawback of saturated fat. Nonfat milk is also higher in calcium than full fat or 2 percent milk, with 302 milligrams per 8 ounces as compared to 290 for whole milk and 297 milligrams for 2 percent milk.
Calcium is necessary to build strong bones. But, your bones don't stop growing when you do. They are constantly being torn down and rebuilt. When you don't take in enough calcium, the stripping down happens faster than the rebuilding, and your bones become porous, leading them to fracture where healthy bones would not. This is called osteoporosis and it is often seen in people as they age, especially if they have been calcium-deficient for years. Milk is an excellent source of calcium partly because it also contains vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps support your immune system. It also helps your body to absorb calcium, which is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Sources of vitamin D include exposure to sunlight, and milk. According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, adults up to the age of 70 need 600 international units of vitamin D per day. One cup of fortified milk contains 100 international units of vitamin D.
Guidelines for 50 and Over
The guidelines for how much calcium an adult needs is under debate. The National Academy of Sciences recommends 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day for adults who are 50 years old and 1,200 milligrams per day for adults over 50. If you were to get your dietary calcium only from milk, you would need to drink 3.25 8-ounce glasses of milk every day at 50 years old and 4 glasses per day if you are over 50.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Calcium and Milk: What's Best for Your Bones and Health?
- Colorado State University Extension: Osteoporosis
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Calcium
- University of Florida Extension: Facts About Vitamin D
- Institute of Medicine of the National Academies: DRIs for Calcium and Vitamin D
- The University of Georgia: How Much Calcium Do Different Foods Have?