Kids and Calcium: Is Your Child at Risk for Osteoporosis?
The Bone Bank
Drink your milk. You can probably hear your own mother saying those words when you didn’t drink what she thought was enough. And now that you’re a parent, you know that milk equals calcium, and calcium equals strong bones—but have you ever considered the long-term effects on your child’s health if he or she isn’t getting enough calcium? And how much is enough, anyway?
“Children need calcium for adequate bone development and growth,” says Kristen Rudolph, a pediatric dietitian at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “If children don’t get enough calcium and their bone density is poor, they can get osteoporosis later in life.” Osteoporosis is a complex disorder in which bones become so fragile they are susceptible to breaks with minimal trauma. And while the most important time for children to get adequate calcium is between ages 11 and 24, Rudolph says it is crucial that parents establish healthy eating habits—to include calcium—from toddlerhood. “As kids get into adolescent years one of the first things to go is dairy products, for various reasons—drinking milk isn’t perceived as cool, or girls are trying to diet and give up milk—and kids will actually drink a lot sodas which inhibits the growth of calcium,” says Rudolph. “Parents need to start children on calcium early on.”
Rudolph has the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which says, “Maintaining adequate calcium intake during childhood is necessary for the development of a maximal peak bone mass. Increasing peak bone mass may be an important way to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later adulthood.”
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN