Loreto Kilkenny: Ella and Jessie find teenage girls know little about bone health

Ella and Jessie find teenage girls know little about bone health

Ellie and Jessie in front of their stand at the BT Young Scientist

The award winning project from Loreto Secondary School completed by Ella Brennan and Jessie Oyenuga found that while one in three women over the age of 50 will suffer from Osteoporosis or osteoporotic fractures, teenage girls know little about bone health.

“Teenage girls think of Osteoporosis as something that we will only have to worry about in the future when in fact it is an issue that we should be focussed on now,” Ella Brennan said.

“With 95% of your bone being laid down before you reach your mid-twenties, It is how you look after your bones now in adolescence that will determine your risks later in life.

“Our project surveyed 509 girls on the topic of Osteoporosis and we discovered key gaps in their knowledge.

“ The girls did not know that to maintain healthy strong bones you are recommended to be consuming 5 portions of Calcium a day and 5 micro grams of vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for bone development as it allows your body to absorb Calcium.

“Results showed that teenage girls were largely unaware how vital the teenage years are for bone development and this was further reflected when we analysed the Calcium and vitamin d intake of 100 girls from the ages of 13-17.

“We were shocked at how low the girls Calcium and vitamin D intake was and we decided to investigate if increased education on bone health would inspire them to make a change and increase their own intake of these two vital elements.

“We held two information talks in the school on the topics of bone health and Osteoporosis given by Dietician Claire MacGartland and Dr. Niamh Murphy who are both experts in this field.

“ We also distributed an information booklet on the topic, gave out some free dairy products in school courtesy of Glanbia and had a Facebook page where we posted tips on increasing your Calcium intake and Calcium rich recipes. The main aim of this intervention was to raise awareness about Osteoporosis for young people and also promote dairy food as a healthy and nutritionally beneficial food for teenage girls. After this intervention occurred we revisited our research group of 100 teenage girls and analysed their Calcium and vitamin D intake again to see if there was a difference. We were delighted to find that our intervention had been a success and overall each year group of girls increased their Calcium intake and almost every year group increased their vitamin D intake. Despite this increase there are still a lot of girls who were failing to reach the recommended daily intakes of Calcium and Vitamin D and we believe that there's still a lot more work to be done on the issue, we recommend from our findings that more foods should be fortified with vitamin D in the future so as to make it more accessible for people and that an emphasis be placed on educating teenagers on the topic of bone health in schools. We plan to continue raising awareness about the importance of looking after your bones amongst teenage girls and expanding our project even further in the future.

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