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In Season 1, Episode 3 of the television series "True Blood", the following conversation takes place:

Sookie: Marthaville’s gettin’ a Starbucks.
Gran: I cannot for the life of me see why anybody would spend $3 on a cup of coffee with too much milk.
Sookie: Arlene told me, that people are less calcium-deficient than they used to be because of all the fancy coffee they drink nowadays.
Gran: You know, I never thought of that, but it does make sense.

I guess, this claim is part based on the fact that a Grande Latte has 40% of your RDA

Is it true that the change in diet to milky coffee has reduced calcium deficiency in americans?

  • Are you saying that their coffee causes calcium deficiency rates to decrease? Please back this up or this question is just "something you heard." – Goodbye Stack Exchange Mar 4 '12 at 20:50
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    I think the claim is that so many people are drinking Starbucks lattes who were previously drinking calcium-less restaurant drinks (i.e. almost everything else), that it's had a significant affect on the median calcium intake of some large population (Americans?). – user792 Mar 4 '12 at 22:41
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    There is a much repeated allegation that a poor coffee farmer, on being asked if Starbucks was helping his business claimed that they weren't so much in the coffee business as the hot milk business. [No source as I heard it nth hand]. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 5 '12 at 0:08
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    Added a notable source, which I would respectfully suggest was almost certainly a product placement. – Oddthinking Mar 5 '12 at 4:01
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    @RoryAlsop but diets in other countries may be a lot different so that so that comparison based only on Starbucks (yea or nay) is rather meaningless. Imagine all the cheese us Europeans consume (well, in select places), that's got a load of calcium in it. – JJJ Nov 19 '19 at 3:58
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Q: Is it true that the change in diet to milky coffee has reduced calcium deficiency in Americans?

There seems to be no official data about how many Americans have changed their diets to milky coffee, so we don't know if drinking it has decreased calcium deficiency in them, but we can ask if it can reduce it.

In summary, there is very little evidence to say that drinking milky coffee can significantly decrease calcium deficiency in Americans in general. It may, however, prevent calcium deficiency in those individuals who would otherwise have very low calcium intake.

With other words, if you regularly drink 16 oz of cola (5 mg calcium) or orange juice (274 mg calcium) and switch to a milky coffee, like Grande Latte which has 450 mg calcium/16 oz, which is 45% Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), you will increase calcium intake, but this would decrease your risk of calcium deficiency only if your calcium intake without that would be very low - and it's not clear how low your otherwise calcium intake would need to be for milky coffee to help you.

What is calcium deficiency?

Calcium deficiency means low body calcium stores, which are mainly reflected as low bone mineral density (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov), also known as low bone mass or osteopenia, which may progress to osteoporosis. Even if long-term low calcium intake can result in low bone mineral density, it is only rarely associated with low blood calcium level (hypocalcemia), because the missing calcium is leached from the bones into the blood (Office of Dietary Supplements).

Rationale

1) In several observational studies, there was no association between high milk intake and osteoporosis rate (Advances in Nutrition, 2019, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2019).

2) From the maps that show worldwide milk and calcium intake and blood vitamin D levels and the incidence of hip fractures (mainly due to osteoporosis) you can see that milk/calcium intake is not associated with a lower incidence of hip fractures, especially in China and India with very low milk/Ca intake (<300 mg/day) and low incidence of hip fractures, and in the United States and Sweden with high milk/calcium intake (~1,000 mg/day) and high incidence of fractures.

According to Harvard School of Public Health:

...high calcium intake doesn’t actually appear to lower a person’s risk for osteoporosis. For example, in the large Harvard studies of male health professionals and female nurses, individuals who drank one glass of milk (or less) per week were at no greater risk of breaking a hip or forearm than were those who drank two or more glasses per week....When researchers combined the data from the Harvard studies with other large prospective studies, they still found no association between calcium intake and fracture risk...A 2014 study also showed that higher milk consumption during teenage years was not associated with a lower risk of hip fracture in older adults. Additional evidence further supports the idea that American adults may not need as much calcium as is currently recommended. For example, in countries such as India, Japan, and Peru where average daily calcium intake is as low as 300 milligrams per day (less than a third of the U.S. recommendation for adults, ages 19 to 50), the incidence of bone fractures is quite low.

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    This answer seems almost, but not entirely, unrelated to the question asking specifically about calcium deficiency. – pipe Nov 12 '19 at 19:41
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    @pipe, I explained what is calcium deficiency; it's not hypocalcemia and it does not automatically result from calcium intake less than RDA (1,000 mg/day). – Jan Nov 13 '19 at 10:15
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    @Jan: This answer use some unusual definitions which don't seem to be supported by other sites. Do we agree: Hypocalcemia is low blood-calcium. There are many non-dietary causes of hypocalcemia. It leads to osteoporosis. Low dietary calcium also leads to osteoporosis. – Oddthinking Nov 16 '19 at 9:55
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    Where I think we disagree: Calcium deficiency (or calcium deficiency disease) commonly refers to hypocalcemia. Increases in the incidence of osteoporosis is not evidence that diets are getting worse; populations in the USA are growing and ageing. This answer fails to address whether the number of people with calcium intake below the RDA has reduced over time, and whether calcium-rich coffees are the cause. – Oddthinking Nov 16 '19 at 9:58
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    Example websites that call hypocalcemia (as opposed to low calcium intake or low bone mineral density) as "calcium deficiency": 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. My point is you can't just say "calcium deficiency ≠ hypocalcemia" because the terms are often used interchangeably. – Oddthinking Nov 16 '19 at 15:21

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