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Abstract

The importance of calcium for strong bones has long been recognized. It is now also known that adequate calcium intake helps reduce high blood pressure and lessens the symptoms of premenstrual tension as well as possibly protecting against bowel cancer. Over the last several decades, researchers have learnt a great deal about how a nutritionally balanced diet during childhood and adolescence works to prevent the onset of damaging adult diseases. One long – lasting effect of nutritional imbalance during adolescence is osteoporosis, a bone-crippling disease characterized by low bone mass and an increased bone fragility. Once recognized primarily as an elderly woman’s disease, osteoporosis is now being acknowledged as a partially preventable ‘adolescent’ disease because the occurrence of osteoporosis is influenced by bone mass attained during the first three decades of life, as well as the amount of bone lost after menopause. An optimal calcium intake during adolescence, when 50 percent of adult skeletal mass is formed decreases the risk of the crippling fractures caused by osteoporosis.

This study examines the health implications on the declining calcium intake in female adolescents from the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria. Well-structured, in-depth questionnaires were distributed to 500 adolescent female students to access their calcium intake from the foods they eat. The results showed that many adolescent females avoid dairy products, the best source of calcium, because of the perception that all dairy products are fat – laden foods. Others replace milk with regular or diet soda, unconcerned about the “empty calories” or limited nutritional value of soda. Some are not aware of the serious, long –lasting health implications of inadequate calcium consumption. Most do not think they will ever become one of the 26 million women that suffer from osteoporosis today. Though the threat of osteoporosis may be in the far – off future for many female teens, this study recognizes the immediate need to reverse their inadequate calcium intake. A public health campaign geared toward increasing their calcium consumption by encouraging them to consume nature’s most calcium rich food: milk, is highly recommended.

Note on the Author

Blessing Ogochukwu Agoreyo, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Benin, Benin City

Ifeyinwa Flossy Obuekwe, Department of Pharmaceutical Microbiology, University of Benin, Benin City

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