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Bone Health of Young Women

When do women need to think about osteoporosis?

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Updated August 16, 2012

  • When should a young woman begin to think about bone health?
  • When does osteoporosis begin?
  • Should I worry about my daughter?
Osteoporosis is a common condition that affects millions of Americans; it causes weakening of bones and leads to an increased susceptibility to fractures.
  • True or False: Osteoporosis is a disease of the elderly.


    FALSE! Osteoporosis is a condition that is most commonly experienced by elderly individuals, but it can be seen in young adults. Osteoporosis is defined as a loss of bone mass to a specific level that is determined by ones ideal peak bone mass. Your peak bone mass is usually achieved in your twenties, and then declines from that point. If a young adult does not achieve their ideal peak bone mass, then they may develop osteoporosis at a much earlier age.
  • True or False: Young children usually consume an adequate amount of calcium.


    FALSE! Less than 50%, perhaps as low as 20%, of 9-12 year old girls consume the recommended amount of calcium each day. Unfortunately, school diets are too frequently deficient in important nutrients. Soft drinks now advertise in some schools, and milk products become a secondary choice. Without a proper diet, bone density may not be optimal, and this may lead to early development of osteoporosis.
  • True or False: Optimal calcium intake is difficult to achieve.


    FALSE! The U.S. R.D.A. for calcium in young women is 1300 milligrams. This is not a difficult amount to take in: one cup of skim milk contains 300 milligrams, and a cup of yogurt contains over 400 milligrams of calcium. A glass of milk three times a day will account for about 75% of the R.D.A.! However, many adolescents drink other beverages with meals, and don't consume an adequate amount of calcium. Recent studies have shown that beverage choice alone is a good predictor of overall nutritional health in children.(1)
  • True or False: Soft drinks may cause a decrease in calcium absorption.


    TRUE! It's obvious that drinking a soft drink will not help achieve the R.D.A. for calcium, but it may also hurt. Studies indicate that soft drinks that contain phosphoric acid can impair the ability of calcium to be absorbed within your gut.(2) This further confirms that beverage choice is one of the best targets to improve nutritional health in children and young adults.
  • True or False: Anorexia can significantly accelerate bone loss.


    TRUE! Anorexia is a condition that primarily affects young, athletic women. While exercise has been shown to increase bone mass under normal conditions, in individuals with anorexia bone loss is accelerated. Irreversible bone loss begins at very early ages in individuals with anorexia, and these people have a much higher risk of bone fractures. A normal, healthy diet is critical to optimizing bone health.

Sources:

Archives Pediatric Adolescent Medicine 2000 Nov;154(11):1148-52.

Journal Clinical Epidemiology 1999 Oct;52(10):1007-10

Lane JM, and Nydick M. Osteoporosis: current modes of prevention and treatment. J. Am. Acad. Ortho. Surg., Jan 1999; 7: 19 - 31.

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