CHICAGO, IL — According to recent research, bone health in youth may take more than drinking a few glasses of milk a day to stay strong. In fact, exercise and a diet rich in other non-dairy, calcium-rich foods, such as tofu and broccoli, may be best for bone strength.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers reviewed 37 studies that examined the relationship between milk, dairy products or calcium intake and bone mineralization or fracture risk in children and young adults from 1 year old to 25 years old. Of those 37 studies, 27 found no relationship between dairy or calcium intake and measures of bone health, and in the remaining reports, the effects on bone health were small. Three studies were confounded by vitamin D intake from fortified milk.

This research is in contrast to the government's recommendations for a daily calcium intake of between 800 to 1,300 milligrams coming mostly from dairy products.

“Scant evidence supports nutrition guidelines focused specifically on increasing milk or other dairy intake for promoting child and adolescent bone mineralization,” the authors from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington wrote.

The March issue of the journal also included a commentary highlighted the importance of exercise.

“It is well known that weight-bearing exercise plays a role in achieving maximal peak bone mass, but data to quantify the effect are limited,” Frank Greer, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, wrote.

He urged the continuation of promoting physical activity and an optimal calcium intake of up to 1,300 milligrams a day.

“If these healthy lifestyle practices are instituted early in childhood, they will continue throughout a lifetime,” he said.