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Adapted from Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1995) National Food Survey 1994. London: HMSO.

Adapted from Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1995) National Food Survey 1994. London: HMSO.

Minerals

Milk makes a contribution to human needs for virtually all the minerals and trace elements known to be essential for health. These are often present in a form that is well absorbed and utilized by the body (high bioavailability), e.g., calcium and zinc. For most people in the Western world, milk and milk products are a major source of calcium. Almost 60% of the calcium in the typical British diet is contributed by milk and milk products (Table 2). Milk alone contributes about 40% of the total. Although the contribution to zinc requirements made by milk is relatively low compared with meat (the major contributor), the zinc in milk is in a highly bioavailable form and there is evidence that the combination of milk (or meat) with vegetable foods, in which the zinc is less bioavailable, can enhance the bioavailability of zinc from the whole meal.

Cultural Significance of Milk and Milk Products

In countries where dairying has traditionally been a strong industry, milk and milk product consumption tends to be widespread and makes a significant contribution to nutrient needs. Table 2 shows the contribution in Great Britain. The average daily intake of milk in the UK is a little under half a pint per person (271ml). Table 3 shows the contribution half a pint of whole milk makes to the nutrient and energy needs of a 4-year-old girl and a man. Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk would make smaller contributions to intakes of energy and fat-soluble vitamins.

In Scandinavian countries, where dairying is also traditional, liquid milk consumption is typically higher than in the UK. However, in warmer climates, in particular the Indian subcontinent, Africa and South America, climatic conditions lend themselves less readily to cows' needs, so that the development of dairying and, hence, milk-drinking habits has been far more patchy. Exceptions exist, such as the Masai in East Africa, whose culture is dominated by the cow. Similarly, in parts of India, cows have religious significance but have not, until recently, been intensively managed for their milk.

Being rich in calcium needed for skeletal development and maintenance, milk has traditionally been seen as an important food during childhood, pregnancy and lactation, when calcium requirements are particularly high. This view is still supported today. The Departments of Health in the UK advises milk (and water) to be the most suitable drinks for

Table 3 Contribution of 285 ml (half pint) of whole milk to nutrient needs

Percentage of UK reference nutrient intake (RNIs)

Table 3 Contribution of 285 ml (half pint) of whole milk to nutrient needs

Percentage of UK reference nutrient intake (RNIs)

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