Children Need Calcium

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: You have said that calcium is important for everyone, certainly for growing children and teens. I know people who will not give their children milk because of the hormones used in cows. They don't give them calcium supplements either. What is your feeling about this, and do you think these hormones bring about early puberty? -- E.H.

ANSWER: Dairy products are the best sources of calcium. If people shun dairy products, then they must find alternate calcium supplies. In youth, bones are rapidly growing and storing calcium. Young bones that are shortchanged of calcium are destined for problems like osteoporosis later in life.

An 8-ounce glass of milk has 300 mg of calcium. One slice of cheese contains from 200 mg to 270 mg. Foods with this much calcium are hard to come by. Children's daily requirement is 1,200 mg to 1,500 mg.

Alternate sources include: 3 ounces of sardines with bones, 325 mg; 1 cup of spinach, 138 to 240; half a cup of navy/lima beans, 50; 1 ounce of almonds, 70. Parents are not going to get children to live on sardines and spinach.

As for the hormone controversy, I respect people's concerns. I, for one, do not share those concerns. Parents who are adamant about banning dairy products for their children have to provide calcium for them in some other way, and often that way is calcium supplements. Not doing so is a great disservice to these children.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I thought salt was salt. One soup manufacturer lists sea salt as an ingredient in its low-salt soup. Does this imply sea salt is better than ordinary salt? -- Anon.

ANSWER: You're right. Salt is salt -- sodium chloride, NaCl. No one can change that.

However, where salt comes from and how it's processed make it taste somewhat different. Sea salt, as the name implies, comes from bodies of saltwater. The water is allowed to evaporate, and what's left is salt.

Sea salt is coated with other minerals found in saltwater -- magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine. Those minerals are present in small amounts, but they give sea salt a bit of a different flavor than salt taken from a salt mine. People might use less sea salt than regular table salt because of the additional zing that those minerals impart to it.

It still boils down to the amount of sodium that is in a product. The daily limit for sodium is 1,500 mg to 2,300 mg. Most of our salt intake comes from processed foods, so label-reading is essential for anyone on a low-sodium diet.

The facts on sodium and potassium are discussed in the booklet on that topic. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue -- No. 202W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

© 2008 North America Synd., Inc. All Rights Reserved

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