No one disputes that calcium is essential for building strong bones and
teeth. Women, men and children need it. In fact, while the message about
osteoporosis prevention and bone strength seems directed at older women, it
is even more important to bolster calcium intake during childhood and
adolescence, when there is rapid and significant bone growth, than it is
when we are older and losing bone mass.
According to medical experts,
humans build bone mass between age nine and 18. Ninety percent of it
develops before age 20 and the rest by age 30. Thus, what we build then is
most important because after that we can't build more bone mass. After the
age of 30, we take in calcium just to maintain the bone strength.
That makes it critically important to begin a diet high in calcium as
children and continue it throughout our lives. Children should be given
calcium-rich food beginning at age four.
Unfortunately, available data indicates that most children older than
eight don't get enough calcium, leaving them at risk for fractures or for
developing osteoporosis in adulthood. It is recommended that doctors
evaluate children for calcium intake three times during childhood -- at ages
two to three, eight to nine and as teens -- by asking few questions about
diet, milk consumption, the amount of exercise tey get and whether there is
a family history of osteoporosis.
Guidelines by doctors recommended vitamin D supplements for breast-fed
only babies and older children who don't get adequate amounts of vitamin D,
either because they don't drink Vitamin D fortified milk or don't get enough
sunlight. The human body needs 10 to 15 minutes per week of sun exposure to
produce adequate vitamin D.
It is not always easy to get children to consume calcium rich foods. Some
are allergic to dairy products which are the best source of calcium. some
parents act before there is a problem and give soy formulas to their
Another obstacle is that when children become teenagers, parents don't
have the same control over their diets as the latter are always trying to
keep their weight down. Many stop eating breakfast where there is plenty of
yoghurt and fresh food available and are exposed to a whole new level of
tastes. A study showed that when children reach age 19, they are drinking
three times more soft drinks and 25% less milk than they did as children.
those who drank less milk had less calcium overall in their diets which
contributes to osteoporosis at a later age.
In general, food that contain the most concentrated amounts of calcium
are dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and ice-cream. There are
also other good calcium sources: beans, tofu, canned salmon, almonds, sesame
seeds, dried figs, broccoli, kale and some grains.
It is important to use products like calcium-enriched soy milk and
calcium-fortified orange juice if they don't eat dairy products. Calcium
supplements are important in calcium-poor diets. It is best to get your
calcium needs through food intake, but when that is not possible,
supplements can help make up what the diet lacks.
Whatever the dietary source of calcium, it must be absorbed properly for
it to be beneficial. Some nutrients that interfere with calcium absorption
are sodium, caffeine, too much protein, oxylates found in tea and high
calcium food and phosphorus. Smoking, stress and lack of exercise may also
contribute to the body not being able to absorb calcium effectively.
Exercise is important to prevent osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise
helps maximize bone strength by making bones and muscles work against
gravity. Examples of weight-bearing exercises are walking, running, dancing,
aerobics and skating.