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Young Women's Diets Lack Adequate Calcium : Study Shows 75% Have an Increased Risk of Developing Osteoporosis

June 26, 1986

Three of every four college-age women, whose bones are still developing, have low-calcium diets that contribute to lower bone mass, according to a North Carolina health researcher.

In a study of 90 women ages 18 to 24, including many college students, 75% had low-calcium diets and low bone mineral density, increasing their risk of osteoporosis later in life, according to Dr. John B. Anderson of the University of North Carolina Health Sciences Center.

Anderson's study revealed that high calcium consumers, those who met or exceeded three servings of dairy foods per day, achieved up to 20% greater bone mineral content than low-calcium consumers.

"Young women are very weight-conscious from adolescence onwards, and many of them substitute diet soft drinks for milk and dairy products," said Anderson, a professor of nutrition at the university. "Without dairy products, the major source of calcium is gone and the result is a calcium deficit."

The teens and 20s are critical years for building up bone mass in women to help avoid the crippling bone disease osteoporosis, which can occur after menopause. Adequate calcium and frequent, weight-bearing exercise are significant factors in developing healthy bones before menopause.

Anderson recommends young women, who need balanced diets to perform well in school, use low-fat yogurt and low-fat milk to increase their intake of calcium while keeping calories down.

An eight-ounce glass of low-fat milk is a filling, between-meal snack, is one of three servings needed daily, and has 121 calories. A cup of low-fat yogurt, good for fast breakfasts or lunches on the go, also supplies one serving and has 127 calories. For snacks, a serving of Swiss cheese has 107 calories.

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