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Friday, December 23, 2005

Early Puberty, Harry Potter, and Osteoporosis 

The female of the species, particularly in the US, is under some stress of late. Girls are entering puberty earlier and earlier, data suggest, with the average menarche happening at 12.3 years in 1999-2002, versus 12.75 years in the 1960's. There are millions of (untested) hypotheses as to why this is - hormones in milk, PCBs, increased obesity levels, etc. - but the one thing that's clear is that earlier menarche is a risk factor for breast and uterine cancers later on.

While growing up, kids (of all genders) collect injuries, usually traumatizing their parents more than themselves. This means that parents spend lots of energy trying to minimize the risk of their kids getting hurt. It seems that encouraging them to jump on the Harry Potter bandwagon may achieve just that goal: on HP release weekends, significantly fewer kids were admitted to UK hospitals with traumatic injuries. This is a pretty odd study, full of confounds and assumptions and oddities - the most basic of which is, of course, why Harry Potter is any better than the Teen Titans, besides popularity. Still, it's nice to have yet another excuse to get kids to read.

As women age, injuries become more of a problem: bone density drops, leaving them more vulnerable to broken bones. Osteoporosis is more of a problem in white women, again for unknown reasons, but other women should be careful too. The main way to avoid the serious problems is to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D and exercise, but new research suggests that magnesium may also be critical: for every 100mg/day increase in magnesium, bone density increased 1%.

Many Americans don't get enough magnesium, but that's easily corrected by doing things you ought to do anyways. Eat lots of green veggies!

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