NIH Press Alert
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Wednesday, November 12, 1997
Robert Bock
(301) 496-5133

Secretary Shalala Announces Partnership to Increase Teen Calcium Consumption
Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala today unveiled an innovative new educational program designed to reverse the trend of dangerously low calcium consumption among teens by bringing the popular "milk mustache" campaign into classrooms.

The new "Crash Course on Calcium" education program, developed by a coalition of government, private sector, and medical groups, is designed to help prevent the next generation from suffering the devastating consequences of osteoporosis by reaching teens with the message of the importance of consuming calcium during the teen years.

"The majority of American teens are falling far short of daily calcium requirements, and teen girls are putting themselves at particularly high risk," said Secretary Shalala. "This fun, new campaign will help reach teens with the message that getting enough calcium today can help give them healthy bones for a lifetime."

"A Crash Course on Calcium" includes a video featuring Olympic Gold Medalists Amy Van Dyken and Kristi Yamaguchi, designed to educate teens about the importance of calcium and teach teens simple ways to increase their calcium intake. The program also dispels common myths that keep teens from consuming enough calcium. One of these myths -- particularly prevalent among weight conscious teen girls -- is that all dairy products are fattening.

Besides this new education program, the "milk mustache" campaign is working to reach teenagers through print advertisements featuring famous "milk mustachioed" teens, like Jonathan Taylor Thomas of "Home Improvement" and Neve Campbell of "Party of Five." These ads are running in national magazines read by teens, including Seventeen, Sassy, YM, and Sports Illustrated. The campaign is also reaching teens through radio public service announcements, book covers, and an Internet site (

"Every teen must make healthy, calcium-rich foods an essential part of their diet," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a program partner. "In particular, we must reach teen girls with this important message."

In announcing the new program, Secretary Shalala noted that there is a "window of opportunity" during adolescence to increase bone density through calcium intake. Bones grow and incorporate calcium most rapidly during the teen years, and establish approximately 90 percent of adult bone mass by age 17. By the age of 21 or soon after, peak bone density is achieved, and a few years later, a steady loss of calcium from bones begins.

However, six out of ten teen boys and eight out of ten teen girls don't get enough calcium in their diets at a critical time when nearly half of all bone is formed. Most teens are getting only about 800 mg of the 1,300 mg required each day, setting the stage for osteoporosis. As Secretary Shalala noted, one-half of women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture at age 50 or older, and doctors believe that inadequate calcium consumption during the teen years is largely to blame.

Recent NICHD research indicates that supplementing the diets of teenage girls with an extra 350 mg of calcium per day produced a 14 percent increase in bone density.

"If this 14 percent increase in bone density could be maintained, its impact would be striking -- for every five percent increase in bone density, the risk of bone fracture declines by 40 percent," said Gilman Grave, M.D., chief of the NICHDs Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Growth Branch.

To meet the calcium requirements, the NICHD recommends low-fat milk or dairy products as the preferred source of calcium because they are the best sources of calcium already part of most American diets. To reach this goal, teens need to drink the equivalent of at least 3 cups (8 oz. each) of low-fat milk per day. Along with calcium, milk provides eight other nutrients, including vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium -- all essential for building strong, healthy bones.

The "Crash Course on Calcium" educational program, developed by the Milk Processor Education Program and the National Dairy Council with technical assistance from HHS National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), will give teachers and pediatricians the tools to help them educate teens about bone health, calcium, and how to prevent osteoporosis.

These tools include: a video featuring Olympic Gold Medalists Amy Van Dyken and Kristi Yamaguchi, filmmaker Spike Lee, and actor Jonathan Lipnicki; a teachers guide; a poster; and a "Clueless About Calcium" brochure that helps lay to rest common myths about milk. All of these materials are free to schools nationwide. To receive a free "A Crash Course on Calcium" kit, educators can log onto or call 1-800-WHY-MILK.

In addition to partnering with the private sector to develop "A Crash Course on Calcium," the NICHD is embarking on a long-term education campaign called "Milk Matters." This campaign will educate young people about the importance of calcium for building strong bones and a healthy body. A brochure, "Childhood and Adolescent Nutrition, Why Milk Matters Now for Children and Teens," is available on the Internet at, or can be obtained by writing to: NICHD, 31 Center Drive, Room 2A32, Bethesda, MD 20892-2425. For more information, contact the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at (301) 496-5133. Note: HHS Press Releases are available on the World Wide Web at