Guzzling soft drinks and ditching milk may have serious health implications for our nation's teens, according to a new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. By analyzing four food consumption surveys administered between 1965 and 1996 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the researchers looked at how food intake trends have changed for teens ages 11 to 18. Over the 30-year period, milk consumption has decreased by 36 percent while soft drink and non-citrus juice consumption has steadily increased. The researchers also note that this decline in milk consumption has not been made up for by an increase in other calcium-rich dairy products, which could put teens at serious risk for developing the bone crippling disease, osteoporosis, later in life. "During your teens, nearly half of all bone is formed and about 15 percent of adult height is added, making these years the once in a lifetime opportunity to reach full bone mass and height potential," said Jean Ragalie, R.D., National Dairy Council. "Milk is one of the best natural sources of calcium, not to mention one of the best tasting ways for teens to get it." According to current dietary recommendations, teenagers need 1,300 mg of calcium a day, or the equivalent of about four 8-ounce glasses of milk. Milk also contains vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, and seven other essential nutrients important for growth and development. In addition to the decrease in calcium-rich milk consumption, the study found that teen consumption of fruits and non-potato sources of vegetables has decreased over the 30-year time period as well. Suggested Sidebar: