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Children's Bone Health and Calcium: Condition Information

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What is bone health and how do you build strong bones?

Overall Bone Health

Healthy bones enable children to stand up straight, walk, run, and lead an active life. Calcium is one of the key dietary building blocks to develop strong bones. Because bone growth is rapid during the adolescent years, this is when excellent nutrition, including adequate amounts of calcium is especially important.

Developing strong and healthy bones during childhood may help prevent fractures and avoid osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become thin and weak and break easily. This condition usually appears later in life, but it develops slowly, and early signs of this bone disorder may start in childhood. The best defenses against osteoporosis are eating a well-balanced diet that contains plenty of calcium and taking part in regular physical activity.

Bone Health and Childhood

About one in ten girls and fewer than one in four boys ages 9 to 13 are at or above their adequate intake of calcium. This lack of calcium has a big impact on bones and teeth. Your body continually removes and replaces small amounts of calcium from your bones. If your body removes more calcium than it replaces, your bones will become weaker and have a greater chance of breaking. Children and adolescents establish bone health, which serves as an important foundation to last a lifetime.

The adolescent years are a time of rapid bone growth. For example, teenagers can build more than 25% of their adult bone mass during the adolescent years of peak skeletal growth. By the time teens finish their growth spurts at around age 17 years, more than 90% of their adult bone mass is established.

  1. Moshfegh, A. J., Goldman, J., & Cleveland, L. (2009). What we eat in America, NHANES 2005–2006: Usual nutrient intakes from food and water compared to 1997 dietary reference intakes for vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved April 21, 2012, from (PDF - 756 KB) [top]

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