Osteoporosis and Adolescents
Only 13.5 percent of girls and 36.3 percent of boys aged 12 to 19 in the United States get the recommended daily amount of calcium, placing them at serious risk for osteoporosis and other bone diseases. Nearly 90 percent of adult bone mass is established by the end of this age range. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, but after the age of two, children should drink skim milk instead of two percent or whole milk. Since some children find the taste or color of skim milk objectionable, try adding approximately 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla per quart of milk or adding a squirt of chocolate syrup. To improve the appearance of skim milk, add 1/4 cup of powdered skim milk to a gallon of milk.
As many as 40% of adolescents may be deficient in Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin essential for calcium absorption. Calcium is necessary not only for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, but also for the functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin D also may have a role in preventing potentially cancerous growths in the colon. It is found in fortified milk, cheese, fish, oysters and fortified cereals. The body also can manufacture its own vitamin D, if the skin is exposed to sunlight. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times weekly is adequate to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D (MedLine Plus, 2004). Many teenagers do not receive enough vitamin D, because they have reduced exposures to sunlight due to increased use of sunscreens and fewer outdoor activities.
Recent research suggests that weight reduction plans that include calcium from dairy sources (milk, yogurt, etc.) promote weight loss more effectively than plans without dairy calcium (Zemel and Miller, 2004). In addition, dairy calcium particularly appears to reduce abdominal fat.
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This work was supported by National Space Biomedical Research Institute through NASA cooperative agreement NCC 9-58.