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Boning Up on Bones.

Camp Calcium

Serious Goals

For kids like David Martin, Camp Calcium is a fun and unusual way to spend a summer. But the findings from research at the camp will likely affect their lives, and their bones, decades from now.

On the basis of results from Camp Calcium's earlier research with girls, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine revised its recommendations for the amount of calcium girls should consume from 1,200 milligrams a day to 1,300 milligrams (approximately four to five glasses of milk).

"We have a serious goal of trying to understand the metabolism of calcium during the adolescent growth spurt," says Joan McGowan, PhD, chief of the musculoskeletal disease branch at NIAMSD. "Osteoporosis is not going to be a factor in these kids' lives for half a century, but among those who do get it, probably 50% will have had inadequate bone acquisition in adolescence."

McGowan says that when it comes to building bones, it's adolescence or never. "It's not possible to really build the skeleton after adolescence, so it's critical to put as much bone in the bank as you can," she says.

She calls the camp an innovative way to attract kids to participate in a research project -- always a challenge when the more typical setting is a hospital or clinic with white-coated researchers. And previous camps for girls have had the added benefit of introducing young women to science and to women scientists, she says.

"The girls were exposed to excellent role models for careers in science in a very positive setting," she says.

As for David Martin, he did his part for science this summer. Will he come back next year? "Maybe," his mother reports him saying.

That sounds like a reasonable response from a 13-year old, for whom next summer is a lifetime away. In the meantime, he is grateful for his experience at Camp Calcium and is smiling all the way to the bank.

"He made pretty good money, which made him happy," says Diane Martin. "Now he has a savings account."

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