A new study showing how mothers influence their daughters' beverage choices could offer some marketing opportunities for the dairy industry. It shows that mothers who drink milk more often are more likely to provide it to daughters at meals, Those daughters are thereby less likely to have a calcium deficient diet.

The study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Texas was the first study to investigate how mothers influence their daughters' beverage-drinking habits and bone health during childhood, according to Jennifer O. Fisher, a researcher at the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston. The CNRC is operated by Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in cooperation with Texas Children's Hospital and ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

The study results whose were in the March issue of Agricultural Research magazine, included 180 five-year-old girls from central Pennsylvania. The girls were tracked by the research team for five years, according to Fisher, a CNRC behavioral scientist and professor of pediatrics at BCM who led the study.

In the study, the researchers tested whether their mothers' sweetened beverage- or milk-drinking choices affected their daughters' long-term beverage choices, and whether the girls' beverage drinking habits were linked to their bone health.

Fisher found that milk-drinking mothers were much more likely to report always—or almost always—serving milk to their daughters at meals and snack times. The sweetened beverages served included both carbonated drinks, such as soda, and noncarbonated beverages such as fruit drinks, sports drinks and sweetened ice tea that contain little, if any, fruit juice.

Results showed that girls who regularly met their calcium needs over the course of the study drank an average of 13 ounces of milk per day, which was almost twice the amount consumed by the girls who did not meet their calcium needs. Those girls also had significantly better measurements of bone health at the end of the study.

Although both groups drank more sweetened beverages as they got older, only the girls whose mothers were in the habit of frequently serving milk at meals and snacks were still drinking significant amounts of milk-and getting enough calcium-at age 9.