Irish children and teenagers have higher percentages of calcium insufficiencies compared to adults, attendees at a recent National Dairy Council Health and Wellbeing event heard.

Independent dietitian Paula Mee was quoting figures from surveys which found 37% of girls ages five to 12 has a calcium insufficiency.

It was found that 28% of boys aged five to 12 also had a calcium insufficiency.

“It is important to adopt healthy eating patterns from an early age so that these habits can be continued on into the teenage and adult years.

“National food surveys told us that 16% of women aged 18-64 years and 13% of women aged 65+ years have insufficient calcium intakes.

Surveys showed much higher percentages of calcium insufficiencies amongst Irish children and teenagers with 37% of girls and 28% of boys aged 5-12 years; and with 42% of teenage girls and 23% of teenage boys, having insufficient calcium intakes,” Mee said.

She said that as part of the Department of Health’s guidelines, three servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group are recommended each day.

Five servings per day are recommended daily for those aged 9-18 years, due to the importance of calcium during this life stage.

“Examples of one serving include 200ml of milk, 125ml of yogurt or 25g of hard cheese, with low-fat varieties encouraged,” she added.

Rugby professionals Rob and Dave Kearney, who are ambassadors to the National Dairy Council, joined the line-up of experts and celebrities in Trim, Co. Meath for a the event.

Food and nutrition about health and wellbeing, not vanity

“Reflecting on the health consequences of particular food choices and evaluating portion sizes should not be about vanity,” Mee said.

She said that it is more about developing a healthy relationship with food and recognising the impact on our health and wellbeing.

“If we eat badly, there can be short and long-term consequences which are not good; if we make wise food choices, there can be benefits. It’s up to us,” she said.