Crisis Affects American Youth
Jan.9--- America's youth are in the midst of a calcium crisis,
according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Only 13.5 percent of girls and 36.3 percent of boys age 12 to19 in
the United States get the recommended daily amount (RDA) of calcium.
Because nearly 90 percent of adult bone mass is established by the
end of this age range, America's youth are at serious risk for
osteoporosis and other bone diseases.
Osteoporosis is a
pediatric disease with geriatric consequences, says Dr. Duane
Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development (NICHD).
and other bone diseases begins in childhood. With low-calcium intake
levels during these important bone-growth periods, today's children
and teens are certain to face a serious public health problem in the
future," he says.
Health risks related to
low-calcium intake are not years away. Children are drinking less
milk and more soft drinks and noncitrus drinks than they used to
drink. The number of fractures among children and young adults has
increased. Pediatricians are also seeing the reemergence of rickets,
a bone disease that results from low levels of vitamin D. Rickets
became almost nonexistent after vitamin D was added to milk in the
1950s but is now appearing at greater rates around the country.
As the children get
older, this calcium crisis will become more serious, says Alexander.
This population will show the highest rate of osteoporosis and other
bone health problems in our nation's history.
"However, we need
to remember this is a preventable and correctable public health
problem," adds Alexander.
Getting children to pay
attention to their calcium needs is a challenge for scientists and
educators. For this reason, the NICHD has expanded its Milk
Matters campaign and Web site to speak directly to children and
their parents about calcium.
Previously, the NICHD
developed educational materials that are used primarily by
educators, nurses and physicians to convey the importance of
adequate calcium consumption among children and teens. Now, NICHD
has expanded its Web site to give children and their parents
more access to the information and will be adding games and other
interactive content specifically for kids.
The Institute's Milk
Matters campaign stresses low-fat or fat-free milk as the
preferred source of dietary calcium. Milk also has a high-calcium
content; the calcium in milk is easily absorbed by the body, and
milk contains other nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin A, B12,
potassium, magnesium and protein, that are essential to healthy bone
and tooth development.
If you don't drink milk,
it's important to get calcium from other sources, such as other
dairy products, green leafy vegetables and foods with added calcium.
The Milk Matters
campaign offers a variety of free materials on the importance of
calcium in the diets of children and teens. Brochures, booklets,
fact sheets, coloring books, stickers and posters are available on
the Web site. Most are in both English and Spanish. The Milk
Matters Web site, www.nichd.nih.gov/milkmatters, is an
excellent source of information on calcium for health care
The site includes "Why
Milk Matters" an explanation of why children and teens need
calcium and why milk is the NICHD's preferred source for dietary
calcium. It also provides a history of the Milk Matters
campaign and lists some groups that partner with the NICHD on
The Web site also
includes the following topics:
explains why calcium is so important, how much calcium children and
teens need, and how physical activity plays a role in building
strong bones. It also lists food sources of calcium and provides
facts about lactose intolerance and calcium supplements.
provides summaries for NICHD research projects that focus on calcium
and healthy development, as well as a calendar of calcium-related
events, conferences and meetings. It also offers materials for
health care professionals on different topics related to
calcium and bone health.
Information" indicates how reporters, producers, announcers
and other members of the media can get information about the Milk
and Materials" includes online versions of all Milk
Matters materials to view, download, print and order.
Teens" provides an interactive place for children and teens
to learn more about calcium. It includes games, quizzes, and other
activities related to calcium and milk, as well as fun ways to build
strong and healthy bones and teeth.
Leche" is the Spanish version of the Milk Matters Web
site. This portion of the site offers all the information and
materials in Spanish from the Milk
The NICHD also supports
research and encourages outreach to better understand and promote
the importance of calcium in Americans' diets.
As a part of these
efforts, Dr. Alexander will speak at the Calcium Summit II later
this month. More than 200 experts from national health and nutrition
organizations are expected to develop an agenda for action on the
nation's calcium crisis. In addition, the NICHD is cosponsoring the
Fifth International Symposium on Clinical Advances in Osteoporosis,
also in 2002.
For more information on Milk
Matters, contact the NICHD clearinghouse at 1-800-370-2943,
or visit the Web site at www.nichd.nih.gov/milkmatters.
Extension Source: Dr.
Barbara Streumpler, Nutritionist, Alabama Cooperative Extension
System, (334) 844-2217