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Exercise More Important Than Calcium for Strong Bones

Reports of a new study appeared in the June 10, 2004 issue of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. This new study indicates that exercise is more important than calcium in developing strong bones in girls and young women. Researchers at Penn State University and Johns Hopkins University found that when girls took in far less calcium than the recommended daily allowance, bone strength was not significantly affected, but that bone strength was related to their exercise habits.

This Penn State Young Women's Health Study began in 1990 with 112 12-year-old girls from central Pennsylvania. The ongoing study has tracked the cardiovascular, reproductive and bone health of the subjects, now in their mid-20s. Moira Petit, one of the Penn State researchers noted, "When we looked at their lean mass, what we saw was that a 1 kilogram increase in lean mass was associated with a 2 1/2 percent increase in their bone strength."

Dr. Thomas P. Olenginski, who works with osteoporosis patients at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., praised the study for its detailed look at bone strength, but warned that no one should ignore calcium entirely. He stated, "There is a concern that kids might think, 'I can still drink nothing but sodas as long as I'm working out,'" Olenginski said. "It's the whole package that's still important."

Researcher Tom Lloyd of Penn State's College of Medicine at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center concluded that even at the lower levels, calcium intake seemed to have little effect on bone strength.