There's more good news about dairy and obesity.

Rosemont, Ill.-There's more good news about dairy and obesity. A new study published in the September issue of the International Journal of Obesity (IJO) concludes that dairy consumption in adolescent girls is not associated with a higher body mass index (BMI) or an increase in percentage of body fat.

This study, which followed the girls from pre-adolescence through adolescence, is the first in children to analyze the relationship between dairy food consumption and body weight status over time.

"Teenage girls can maintain a healthy weight and include dairy products," said Aviva Must, associate professor of community health at Tufts University and one of the study's authors. "Dispelling that myth is important because the potential health benefits of the natural calcium in dairy products, particularly its role in building bone mass, are so significant in adolescent girls. The window for maximizing bone mass occurs only in adolescence and doesn't occur again."

Dairy foods are the primary source of calcium for children and adolescents. The daily recommended intake (DRI) for calcium in girls aged 12-18 years is 1,300 mg - the equivalent of four servings of milk, cheese or yogurt daily.

Research has shown that getting the calcium required to build bone mass in adolescence may help prevent osteoporosis. Nearly nine out of 10 teenage girls don't get the calcium they need, and this deficiency is largely driven by low dairy intake.

"Many young women cut out dairy for fear of fat. This study shows that they can keep milk, cheese and yogurt in their diets and maintain a healthy weight," said Deanna Rose, registered dietitian, National Dairy Council. "Dairy foods are the best natural sources of calcium and provide a unique nutrient combination of nine essential nutrients. Parents and health prof-essionals should encourage teens to enjoy 3-4 servings of dairy a day, which is as easy as having a slice of cheese, a glass of chocolate milk and a container of yogurt."

Decreased calcium intake in children has been attributed to decreased milk consumption resulting from increased consumption of sweetened drinks and the shift to eating meals outside the home.

Sidebar: Wild Ways for Teens & Tweens to Get Calcium

According to government recom-mendations, kids ages 9 to 18 need 1,300 mg of calcium each day. Unfortunately, nearly 9 out of 10 teenage girls and 7 out of 10 teenage boys fail to get enough calcium in their diets. Here are some tips to help make sure that teens get the calcium they need for strong bones and healthy bodies.
  • The skimmed shake - make an "old fashioned" milk shake with fat-free milk and your favorite flavor of low-fat ice cream.
  • Fondue, friends & fun - have friends over for a cheese fondue party - dip and dunk favorite veggies, mini-pita bread, cooked and cubed chicken breast and fruit into the cheesy fondue.
  • Chocolate craze - have a glass of ice-cold, low-fat chocolate milk to cool you down, satisfy your chocolate craving and get you on your way to meeting your daily calcium needs.
  • Tropical temptation - make a smoothie with low-fat milk or fat-free yogurt and frozen pineapple chunks (use ice cubes if needed) and blenderize.
  • Yogurt, fruit and whole grain to go - mix your fruit of choice, whole grain cereal and low-fat yogurt in a plastic cup and eat on the go!
  • String cheese please - string cheese is a fun, portable, quick and nutritious "out-the-door" snack. Combine with fresh or dried fruit or wrap in a tortilla.
  • Kickin' kabobs - kick it up a notch with fruit kabobs. Dip in low-fat yogurt!
  • Pizza pick me up - for a quick nutrient boost have a slice of veggie pizza. Or make a pizza on pita or English muffin with pizza sauce, low-fat cheese and favorite toppings.
  • Munch for lunch - put together mini-snacks for fast fuel. Try baby carrots, whole grain crackers, string cheese, fruit and low-fat milk in a plastic "to go" container.