Calcium is a mineral nutrient that is used by the body primarily to
produce and repair bone. As is the case with other minerals, such as
zinc, magnesium, and selenium, many children and adolescents do not get
the recommended amount of calcium from their diets. Childhood and
adolescence may be critical times for getting calcium; about 40% of
lifetime bone mass is produced during a growth spurt that accompanies
the onset of puberty.
Without adequate calcium, the likelihood of having a healthy peak bone
density, which occurs about 10 to 12 years after puberty, and
preventing osteoporosis later in life is believed to be low.
Furthermore, children with low calcium intake have an increased risk of
fractures. Supplementing with calcium has been shown to be an effective
way to increase bone mass in adolescents whose diets are calcium-poor;
however, its effect on peak bone density and osteoporosis risk is not
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of calcium generally increases
with age: the daily RDA is 210 mg for infants from 0 to 6 months and
270 mg from 6 to 12 months; for children, the RDA is 500 mg from 1 to 3
years and 800 mg from 4 to 8 years; for adolescents, the RDA is 1,300
mg from age 9 to 18; and, for adults over 19 years old, the RDA is
While nearly 100% of infants get the recommended amount of dietary
calcium, that number drops to less than 80% of children 1 to 3 years
old, about 55% of children 3 to 5 years old, about 30% of children 6 to
11 years old, and less than 30% of children 12 to 19 years old. Girls
tend to have a lower intake than boys, especially during adolescence.
Adding to concerns about low calcium intake in this age group is the
presence of foods in the diet that causes calcium to be lost in the
urine. Eating salty food, such as processed and fast foods, and
consuming caffeine, found in soft drinks that kids often drink in large
quantities, increase calcium loss. Drinking alcohol, which can be an
issue in older children, similarly triggers calcium loss.
Dairy products are a primary source of calcium for many people.
Choosing dairy foods that are low in fat, such as skim milk and low-fat
yogurt, is important because many dairy foods are laden with saturated
fat, which can contribute to increased risks of cancer and heart
disease over years. Many people prefer nondairy sources of calcium,
either because of milk allergy or lactose intolerance or because of
concerns about other potential long-term negative effects of consuming
Leafy green vegetables such as kale and broccoli, tofu, beans, figs,
and canned fish with bones are among the many other foods that are
naturally rich in calcium. In addition, orange juice, soy milk, and
breakfast cereals are sometimes fortified with calcium. In the interest
of developing healthy eating habits for a lifetime, a wide array of
calcium-rich foods should be recommended to children and teens. They
should also be encouraged to limit the amount of salty and
caffeine-containing foods they eat.
Exercise has also been shown to enhance the building of bone in people
of all ages. Establishing healthy exercise habits during childhood is
as important as establishing healthy eating habits.
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at LifeSource Vitamins
Healthnotes Newswire (March 16, 2016)-Getting enough calcium in the
diet is critical for all children and adolescents, according to a
review published in Pediatrics (2016;117:578-85).
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