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What do supermodel Tyra Banks tennis greats Gabriela Sabatini and Pete Sampras, and actor/director Spike Lee have in common? They're all sporting white milk mustaches as part of the campaign waged by the Milk Processor Education Program in magazines nationwide. Is this a push to help bolster the dairy industry? Maybe. But it also aims to curtail a danger- trend ill the diets of the American people: We aren't getting enough calcium. Low calcium intake has been identified as one of three significant nutrient deficiencies in the United States; without this important element, bones don't develop properly in adolescence and early adulthood.
Chronic lack of calcium is like a ticking time bomb," say s David A. McCarron, MD, professor of medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. "The consequences may not be seen for years to come, but the impact is often irreversible."
Experts have known for years that when you don't get enough cal- in your diet - especially before the age of 35, the cutoff for building hone density - osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, can ensue in your later years. Bones become thin and porous, and subsequently weaken. A fall on a slippery floor could lead to fractures. (A broken hip is a common injury among the elderly.) Some victims develop a humped posture as a result of a weekend spine. Although it typically strikes postmenopausal woman osteoporosis occurs in men, too: One out of five people with the disease is male.
Bodybuilders and other heavy exercisers need to pay special attention to their calcium intake because calcium is lost in sweat, says Robert P. Heaney, MD, professor of medicine at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and a member of the Milk Processor Education Program's medical advisory board.
In addition, he says, "they may have increased calcium needs because they, have increased hone mass from the stimulus they put on the bone from weightlifting." Bodybuilders should also note that a high-protein diet can accelerate calcium loss, as call con- too Much sodium and caffeine.
JUST AS IMPORTANT FOR ADULTS
Many nutritionists and hone experts tout milk as the ,answer to the problem of weak- bones. Perhaps because the beverage is so readily available and chock-full of other vital nutrients - such as Vitamin D riboflavin, phosphorus, protein, Vitamin B-12 potassium and magnesium - it seems to be the most logical choice for fulfilling calcium needs. Its Vitamin D content is especially important, since the body can't.
Regular milk remains controversial in some circles, so organic milk, soymilk and other milk replacements can be better options. With organic milk, you avoid added hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, but you still get the calcium and vitamins so important in milk. More supermarkets carry organic milk nowadays so it’s very accessible. For vegetarians, the lactose-intolerant and those with other sensitivities, soymilk and similar products provide many nutrients. Check to see that they are calcium fortified. You can also get calcium from other food sources, including tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, cooked soybeans and broccoli.