Osteoporosis Begins in Adolescence

Click here for printer friendly PDF file.

American boys and girls are at serious risk for osteoporosis and other bone diseases because only 13.5 percent of girls and 36.3 percent of boys age 12 to 19 in the United States get the recommended daily amount of calcium. The figures are from the United States Department of Agriculture. Because ninety percent of the adult bone mass is established by the end of this age range, young people are in the midst of a calcium crisis. Many doctors use the concept that osteoporosis is a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences.

Getting children and their parents to pay attention to their calcium needs is a real challenge. Previous attempts were made to educate teachers, nurses and physicians hoping that they would convey the importance of adequate calcium consumption among children and teens. This is not been very successful because, as we stated in the beginning of the article only a minority of children are getting the recommended daily amount of calcium. Emphasis now is placed on speaking directly to children and their parents about calcium needs.

The milk matters Web site (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/milk) is a valuable source of information on calcium for children and teens.

Addendum

Fruits and vegetables may help.

Although calcium usually gets top billing when it comes to bone health, fruits and vegetables may also promote stronger bones in girls. A new study in the issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that girls age 8 to 13 who ate at least three servings of fruits and vegetables each day had stronger bones than their peers. Researchers have suspected that a produce-rich diet helps limit the body's excretion of calcium from the bones.

Previously, several studies in adults have tied fruit and vegetable consumption to greater bone density, possibly due to nutrients commonly found in these foods such as potassium, beta carotene, vitamin C and magnesium. There is also evidence that fruits and vegetables lower the excretion of calcium in the urine.

But little is known about produce intake, urinary calcium and bone health in children.

They found that, compared with girls who ate fewer than three servings of fruits and vegetables per day, those who ate more had greater bone area overall and particularly greater bone area in the wrists. The girls excreted less calcium in their urine. The researchers suspect that lower calcium output is the reason for the fruit and vegetable eater's bigger bones.