Teen Girls Can Put Down the Pop and Protect Their Bones
June 14, 2000 -- Grace Wyshak, PhD, doesn't think it's going too far to call
it a major public health concern for teen-agers and older women. Drinking soft
drinks appear to increase the risk of broken bones and osteoporosis.
Wyshak, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, found there was a
close association between drinking of soft drinks, particularly dark colas, and
a threefold risk of broken bones in teen-age girls. If the girls were
physically active, the risk rose to nearly fivefold. In other words, teens that
consume soft drinks have three times or five times the risk of breaking a bone
compared to their peers who do not drink the carbonated beverages.
In her study, appearing in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatric
and Adolescent Medicine, Wyshak found that nearly two-thirds of the 460
high school girls she surveyed drank soft drinks. About half the girls studied
drank dark colas only. Fifteen percent drank both colas and other soft drinks,
and 12% drank non-colas only.
"Adolescence is a very critical time for bone development and anything
that can affect the bone development ? can have long-standing effects in the
future," she tells WebMD. "These findings suggest that osteoporosis is
not only a disease [of the old], but a disease [of the young] as well."
Wyshak is also an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical
Mary Burton, MD, a pediatrician with the St. John Health System in Detroit,
says that the adolescent mind-set is not geared toward future consequences of
present-day actions. "It's hard to impress upon them that they have to do
something now that's going to affect their life 40 or 60 years from now,"
Burton says that the idea that osteoporosis may affect young people is the
most startling point of Wyshak's study. She tells WebMD that encouraging
calcium intake in young women is very important. The study demonstrates the
potential long-range effects of teens chugging soda pop to the exclusion of
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and therefore increases a
person's risk of breaking them. It's especially common in elderly women. Eating
a well-balanced diet and exercising helps to prevent osteoporosis.
Getting enough calcium is crucial too. The recommended intake of calcium for
girls aged 9 to 18 is 1,300 milligrams per day. However, it's estimated that
most teen-age girls only get about 800 milligrams each day.
Milk is the main calcium source in the diet, but many young women don't like
milk or have stomach problems when they drink it. Burton points out other
sources that will supply enough calcium, including calcium-fortified orange
juices, some cereals, and chewable chocolate fudge squares such as Viactiv.
And, of course, there's always calcium supplements in pill form.