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A war on osteoporosis

A study alerts about the risks of low consumption of calcium

Up until the end of this year, of the a universe with 16 million Brazilian women over 55 years of age, 4.5 million could develop osteoporosis, a sickness most common in the elderly, characterized by the decrease of between 20% to 25% in the density of the bones and exposing them to a greater risk of fractures. Concerned with finding ways of reducing this problem, a team from the Center of Nutritional Investigation of the Institute of Health of the State of São Paulo, of the Health  State Department of São Paulo] carried out an investigation with 442 young people between the ages of 14 and 19, when the consumption of calcium becomes even more urgent because of the formation of bone mass.

The conclusions cause concern: only a small portion of the group studied (around 10%) had an adequate nutritional intake regarding calcium consumption. The average ingestion of this mineral was only two thirds of that recommended so that osteoporosis could be avoided. In adolescence, the minimal suggested is of 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day, the equivalent, among other possibilities, of two large cups of milk (one in the morning and one in the evening), two slices of cheese and one yogurt or one cup of milk pudding. Also, it is important to sunbathe, in order for the body to produce vitamin D which helps in the absorption of calcium from the foodstuffs.

Through this survey  – The Role of Calcium in the Prevention of Osteoporosis, with financing of R$ 9,000 by FAPESP – the nutritionist  Doris Lucia Martini Lei hoped to produce data to support preventative programs. The starting point is that the prevention of the disease must be made while in infancy and adolescence, when it is fitting to consume more calcium. The study has the support as well of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

Doris sent questionnaires to 860 students of three high schools in the city of São Paulo, two private and one public. As the participation was voluntary, 442 pupils (52% in total) replied to the preliminary questionnaire about eating habits, physical activities and understanding about the prevention of diseases. Of these, 242 responded to specific questions which indicated the consumption of calcium.

The result indicated the predominance of misinformation with respect to the combat of osteoporosis. In the majority of the cases, physical activity is orientated for esthetic reasons, not by any health concern. And further: it was practically the same in all three schools, the level of the adolescents misinformation with respect to the importance of calcium in nutrition during body growth. “The parents of the pupils of the private schools have a higher level of schooling, but this characteristic does not imply a more adequate die”, comments Doris. Once the data was checked, a team from the Health Institute prepared leaflets with explanations on the importance of calcium and the ways of preventing osteoporosis.

The investigator states that there are also inevitable factors which increase the risk of the loss of bone mass, such as race (whites and Asians are more susceptible),  the physical constitution (when the more dense the bone mass, the more improbable the development of osteoporosis) and the sex (women, after menopause are more exposed to the problem) as well as genetic inheritance. On the other hand, an adequate intake of calcium and the abandoning of an inactive live, are controlling factors.

Doris Lucia Martini Lei, 48 years of age, a graduate in Nutrition, with a masters and doctorate from the School of Public Health of the University of São Paulo (USP). She is a researcher at the Center of Nutritional Investigation of the Institute of Health, of the Health Department of the State of São Paulo].

The Role of Calcium in the Prevention of Osteoporosis; Investment R$ 9.210,00