New Study Reveals Most Economical Calcium Sources
Findings to Appear in Journal of American Dietetic Association
WASHINGTON—What is the cheapest source of calcium in your diet? A new report in the November 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows it’s breakfast cereal. Fortified cereals provide calcium at a cost of about 31 cents per 300 mg absorbable calcium. Calcium carbonate supplements are the least costly nonfood source. Fortified orange juice tied with milk for third least expensive, while other dairy products such as mozzarella and low-fat yogurt were considerably more expensive. The study was conducted by nutrition researchers at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit health and research organization.
The researchers also found that the cost of lactase-added milk, which is used by people who are lactose intolerant, is roughly twice the retail price of regular cow’s milk. Many Americans are lactose intolerant, especially those of Asian, African, Hispanic, Native American or Mediterranean ancestry. Approximately 70 percent of African Americans, for instance, are lactose intolerant, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. For them, the cost of dairy-derived calcium could be considerably higher than other sources.
“Some people might imagine milk is the cheapest calcium source, but supplements and cereals clearly won out,” says Jen Keller, R.D., lead author of the study and staff dietitian for PCRM. “This study guides the cost-conscious consumer looking for economical calcium sources, and, at the same time, provides a warning about the considerable added cost of lactase-added milk.”
PCRM’s trained observers recorded the cost of calcium-rich foods and supplements in geographically diverse locations across the United States, while controlling for seasonal variation at the same time. The study was also designed to take into account the fact that calcium absorption varies greatly among calcium-containing foods.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.