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Vitamin D, Calcium for Preadolescent Girls Help Prevent Osteoporosis


The time to begin preventing the possibility of osteoporosis is childhood and adolescence. A new study in twin preadolescent girls has found that taking a supplement containing calcium and vitamin D can significantly improve bone health and thus help prevent the bone disease known as osteoporosis.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases states on its website that osteoporosis has been called “a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences” because establishing healthy bone density and strength in children and adolescents is critical for future bone health and preventing osteoporosis.

One study in animals, in fact, indicates that proper calcium nutrition in neonates “may be of greater importance to life-long bone health due to its programming effects” on cells that help form bone. This particular study was noted as suggesting that healthcare providers may want “to begin thinking about osteoporosis not so much as a disease of the elderly, but instead as a pediatric disease with later onset.”

Now a new study, conducted at the School of Exercise Science at Australian Catholic University, has shown that taking high-quality supplements containing both calcium and vitamin D may help preadolescent girls establish strong bones. The girls in the study included 20 pairs of twins between the ages of nine and 13. It was the first randomized, controlled trial to evaluate bone responses to calcium in twins.

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Investigators administered one twin in each pair a calcium/vitamin D supplement and the other a placebo. After six months the bone health of each of the study participants was assessed, and the scientists found that the twins who received the supplement had significant improvements in bone development when compared with the twins who received placebo.

Dr. Tim Wood, executive vice president of research and development at USANA Health Sciences, Inc., which supplied the supplement, noted that “Experts regard osteoporosis as a pediatric disease because the best time to prevent is during childhood and early adolescence.” Studies have shown that females accumulate half of their adult bone mineral content during their teenage years. Therefore the findings in this twin study support efforts to ensure young females get adequate calcium and vitamin D to support and promote bone health.

The National Academy of Sciences recommends that females ages 9 to 18 get 1,300 mg calcium daily. When it comes to vitamin D, most experts agree that the current recommendations in the United States are much too low. According to the Vitamin D Council, the average person needs to have 50 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) of vitamin D in their body; levels below that means the body uses up the vitamin as fast as it comes in. The Council recommends individuals be tested for their vitamin D levels and take supplements to bring levels up to between 50 and 80 ng/mL. Parents and adolescents should work with their physician to establish the best dose of vitamin D.

The time to prevent osteoporosis is during childhood and adolescence. According to the new study, preadolescent girls can greatly benefit by taking supplements containing calcium and vitamin D to help prevent bone loss and the disease that is the result of that loss, osteoporosis.

USANA Health Sciences Inc. release July 19, 2010
Vitamin D Council