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Do Children Who Get Calcium Develop Stronger Bones?

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Researchers at Riley Hospital for Children and Purdue University are seeking 240 girls in the 4th-8th grades from the Indianapolis, Lafayette, Fort Wayne and Frankfort areas, to participate in a study examining the effects of calcium supplementation by tracking changes in bone growth and strength over an 18-month period.

Calcium intake is very important for proper bone development because just before girls reach puberty, rapid bone growth occurs with 40-50 percent of a child's bone mass being acquired between 4-8th grades. Researchers have found that at approximately nine years of age, calcium intake begins to decline among girls and that can occur for a number of reasons including weight concerns, body esteem and peer pressure, to name a few.

"When children are eating fewer calories and taking in less calcium, their skeleton will be smaller, making them more susceptible to bone fractures," said Linda A. DiMeglio, MD, MPH, pediatric endocrinology and diabetolgy, Riley Hospital for Children and associate professor, Indiana University School of Medicine. "Calcium not only supports bone development but has been positively linked to osteoporosis prevention and can help maintain a healthy weight."

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The study, known as CHARMEd (Creating Healthy Adolescents through Research Methods and Education), is targeting girls who are both normal weight and overweight. Participants will be randomized into one of four groups. Two of the four groups will be asked to consume three extra servings of dairy products daily and the other two groups will be asked to maintain their current diet. All groups will also complete a weekly food checklist. Four times during the 18-month study period, participants will be asked to visit Purdue University or Indiana University Hospital (Indianapolis) to undergo bone scans and a small blood draw.

To be eligible for the study, participants must have certain dietary habits and not have broken any bones in the last six months. Participants will receive a stipend, free dairy products and transportation reimbursement.

Interested participants need to complete a survey to be considered for the CHARMEd study. Completing the survey does not require participation and selected participants can leave anytime during the study if no longer interested.

"Building strong bones during growth is the most important time to prevent fractures during childhood or later in life. Body composition defined during these same years greatly influences adult obesity and health," said Connie Weaver, PhD, distinguished professor of foods and nutrition, Purdue University. "Our study will help us to understand the role of diet and body size in building strong bones and body composition during this window of opportunity."