Milk Increases Airflow
For nearly a decade, researchers from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), an Auckland, New Zealand-based group, have been studying the diets of more than 700,000 children ages 6, 7, 13, and 14 from 53 countries, including the U.S. One of their conclusions, published in the European Respiratory Journal earlier this year: Kids who got more calcium from food were less likely to wheeze. And calcium-rich milk reduced asthma in Dr. Seaton's study.
Additional research from the University of Nottingham in England suggests that calcium may account for only part of milk's anti-asthma benefits -- its high magnesium content may play a role. The scientists studied the diet and measured the lung function of more than 2,600 adults. After adjusting for risk factors like age and smoking, they found that subjects whose magnesium intake was 100 milligrams (mg) above the mean of 380 mg had significantly calmer lungs and better airflow. While they haven't repeated the trial in children, they advise that kids eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods.
Breath-Saving Strategy: Make sure that your child meets her daily calcium and magnesium requirements from food. One- to 3-year-olds need 500 mg of calcium and 80 mg of magnesium daily, while kids 4 to 8 require 800 mg of calcium and 130 mg of magnesium. Older children should shoot for 1,300 mg of calcium and 240 mg of magnesium every day.
Milk is a great source because it supplies 300 mg of calcium and 34 mg of magnesium per cup. So if your 6-year-old drinks two cups daily, she'll get 75% of the calcium and 50% of the magnesium she needs. (If your child is allergic to cow's milk, serve fortified soy milk instead.)
Round out your child's calcium needs with a serving of yogurt or cheese; use low-fat varieties for kids 2 and over. And make sure your child polishes off her magnesium requirement by regularly offering her cereal, green veggies, beans, fish, and, if she's 4 or older, nuts.