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Calcium: Is My Child Getting Enough?

Calcium:  Is My Child Getting Enough?

McKenzie Pediatrics 2010

Most older children and adolescents in the United States currently do not achieve the recommended intake of calcium.  Maintaining adequate calcium intake during childhood and adolescence is necessary for the development of peak bone mass, which is important in reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis later in life.  Optimal calcium intake is especially relevant during adolescence, when most bone mineral build-up occurs.  A well-rounded diet including low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables and appropriate physical activity are important for achieving good bone health.   Establishing these practices in childhood is important so that they will be followed throughout the adult life.

Where is Calcium Found In The Body?

About 99% of total body calcium is found in the skeleton. The primary need for calcium in the diet is for building strong bones. The important calcium-regulating hormones – hormones essential for good bone health - include parathyroid hormone, calcitonin, and Vitamin D.

How Does Vitamin D Play A Role?

Calcium is absorbed in the intestine. This process requires adequate Vitamin D. Many children and adults have insufficient amounts of this important vitamin in their body.

Infants, children and adolescents all need a minimum of 400 IU (International units) of Vitamin D per day for good bone health. During the months of October through May, above 35 degrees north latitude (which includes Oregon), the angle of the sun is not sufficient for our bodies to make adequate Vitamin D, even with regular sun exposure. Therefore, regular daily consumption of foods that are good sources of Vitamin D is important. Taking a daily multi-vitamin during these months is a terrific idea.

What Is The Most Important Age For Getting Enough Calcium?

Adolescence, hands down. During a 3- to 4-year period during adolescence (usually 11 to 14 years for girls, 13 to 16 years for boys), 40% of total lifetime bone mass is accumulated. Therefore it is crucial that preteens and young teens are getting regular sources of dietary calcium for this entire period.

Not getting enough calcium during these important years not only causes weak bones later in life, it also increases the risk and number of fractures during adolescence!

What Are Some Good Dietary Sources of Calcium?

How Much Calcium Does My Child Need Daily?

It’s really hard to eat TOO MUCH calcium so consider the following numbers to be daily MINIMUMS

Remember that a calcium-rich diet can still be a low-fat diet. There are many good-tasting non- and low-fat milks, cheese, yogurts, and ice creams available.

What If My Child Is Lactose-Intolerant?

There are plenty of non-dairy choices as sources of calcium, though it will be more difficult for the lactose-intolerant (or dairy allergic) child to meet their daily minimum calcium intake.

What Else Is Important For Good Bone Health?

Exercise, exercise, exercise. Regular weight-bearing exercise, especially during adolescence, gives long-lasting benefits for good bone health. Sedentary, screen-bound teens are much more likely to have weaker bones, and are more susceptible to fractures and achiness with activity.