With young children at home, Dr. Mike Whitaker of Scottsdale knows how hard it can be to get kids to drink milk.
He also knows how important it is — and not just for a child’s current health — but for her future health as well.
A recent report from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., compared forearm fractures from 1969-71 and 1999-2001 and found a 42 percent increase among adolescents. According to the study, conducted by endocrinologist Sundeep Khosla and epidemiologist L. Joseph Melton III, girls between the ages of 8 to 11 and boys between ages of 11 and 14 had the highest fracture rates.
"Like all good studies, it raises more questions than it answers," said Whitaker, an endocrinologist with the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale.
Is the type of sports children play causing the increase? Are children getting less exercise, resulting in weaker bones? Are kids taking in less calcium? Are parents not modeling good diet and exercise habits? Will today’s children be at higher risk for developing osteoporosis later in life?
"Bone development is most rapid in early adolescent years as children enter puberty," Whitaker said. "Fully onefourth of adult bone mass is accumulated during these years."
Weight-bearing exercise helps bones grow and function properly, Whitaker said. Studies with astronauts have proven this. "Lack of weight bearing, such as occurs in the weightlessness of space, leads to profound and rapid bone loss," Whitaker said.
Also, key is diet. "Kids are into pop, everything except milk," he said.
The Recommended Daily Allowance of calcium for children is 1,300 mg. But according to the National Dairy Council, nearly nine out of 10 adolescent girls and seven out of 10 adolescent boys fall short of this intake.
Children are falling short with exercise as well. Nearly half of American youths ages 12 to 21 are not vigorously active on a regular basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.