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Daily calcium intake critical for teenage girls


Daily calcium supplementation can significantly affect the development of optimum bone mass in teenaged girls, according to research presented this week at the Fifth International Symposium: Clinical Advances in Osteoporosis.

The symposium was hosted by the US National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), the Asian-Pacific Osteoporosis Foundation (APOF) and the Sociedad Iberoamericana de Osteologia y Metabolismo Mineral (SIBOMM) in Honolulu.

Velimir Matkovich, director of the Bone and Mineral Metabolism Laboratory at Davis Medical Research Center in Columbus, Ohio, lead author of the study, told delegates at the symposium that his team had measured bone mass in 179 Caucasian girls over a 7-year period beginning when the girls were at least 11 years old and ending at age 18.

The girls received 1,000 milligrams of calcium citrate malate supplements each day, supplied by US group Procter & Gamble. The current recommended calcium intake for girls aged nine to 12 is 1,300 milligrams a day. Bone mass measurements, obtained at the beginning of the study and every six months thereafter, showed "a significant positive influence of calcium on bone mineral density of the forearm over time", Dr Matkovich said.

He added that the findings were preliminary, but that they "strongly support the need for high dietary calcium consumption for growth and promotes the concept of the primary prevention of osteoporosis through high peak bone mass formation".

The importance of calcium and exercise for healthy bone development in young girls was also affirmed by Saralyn Mark, senior medical advisor to the Office of Women's Health. She reported on a programme sponsored by NOF, the Office of Women's Health within the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The programme, called Powerful Bones,Powerful Girls, was targeted at 9-12 and promoted the benefits of regular exercise and sufficient calcium intake.

"Only about 10 per cent of young girls in the nation get the calcium they need each day. Since about 98 per cent of the human skeleton is complete by the age of 20, it is vital that young girls and boys get enough calcium and daily exercise to assure the strongest possible bones." Dr Mark said.