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Boning Up on Bones.

Camp Calcium
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Not For Women Only continued...

It's a lesson not widely known to apply to young boys. But Connie Weaver, PhD, head of the department of foods and nutrition at Purdue, says the notion that osteoporosis is only an elderly woman's concern is a myth.

"Osteoporosis is rapidly increasing in men, yet all of the studies to date have been in women," she tells WebMD. "Twenty percent of the fractures are in men."

And because the bones that kids build as teens will be the bones that last -- or fracture -- in their older years, it's wise to start early, Martin says.

"It's important to consume a diet that will maximize your genetic potential for the heaviest bones possible," she tells WebMD. "Men and women will lose some bone as they age. If we start at a higher point as teens, then obviously we can postpone and prevent factures."

As Weaver puts it: "You get more bang for your buck if you build a strong skeleton when you are young."

Camp Calcium is now in its seventh year, though this past summer was the first time the camp was run for boys. Funded in part by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMSD), the camp has sought to answer these fundamental questions: How does the body use calcium to build strong bones? And how much calcium should young people have in their diet?

At this year's camp, researchers sought to determine the level of calcium intake that would result in the optimum amount being retained by the boys' bones. The boys were fed controlled diets that included from 1,800-2,200 milligrams of calcium (approximately six or seven glasses of milk) a day.

By analyzing the urine and feces collections, researchers will be able to determine how much calcium is being excreted -- as opposed to absorbed by bones -- at varying levels of dietary intake. Results from the research will be published early next year.

"We want to see how absorption and retention of calcium reacts to changes in intake," Martin explains. "Is there a point of diminishing returns at which drinking more milk is not going to do any good?"

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