Adequate Calcium, Vitamin D and Weight-bearing Movement is Imperative During Childhood and Adolescence


Did you know that Peak Bone Mass (PBM) (defined as the heaviest bone mass an individual achieves), is generally reached by 18-20 years of age? And that if PBM is not attained by the mid-20s, it is unlikely to be achieved at all? This means that young adults with low bone density do not catch up over time. Why is this important? PBM is acknowledged as the best predictor of debilitating osteoporotic fractures in older adults. So it is critical that children maximise their potential for bone mass accrual and yes diet plays a huge role!

Bones make up 99% of the body’s Calcium. Life without calcium is impossible. Being so essential, if we do not consume enough calcium, our body will take what it needs from our bones.

When it comes to getting calcium from food, it is important to consider bioavailability. This refers to how much of the calcium can be absorbed. It is also important to consider the serve size be a reasonable amount to consume. This is where dairy foods pop-up as a good source of calcium. Milk, cheese and yoghurt provide calcium in a readily absorbable form and it is certainly a good source of calcium for most people (unless there is allergy or intolerance), as are other sources of calcium such as bony fish, sesame seeds, almonds, broccoli, spinach, dried apricots and dried figs. Compared to dairy, the absorption of many non-dairy calcium sources are less bioavailable e.g. dried bean 50% and only 10% from spinach. It is important to acknowledge that all these foods do contribute to calcium intake. And of course our vegan friends can certainly attain calcium balance.

Have you heard that dairy has negative effects on bone health? Overall, the research does not support this thought. A very recent (2016) randomised clinical trial looked at the effect of increasing ACTUAL dairy food on bone accrual in 274 adolescent girls and it showed that of dietary calcium intake had positive increases in Bone Mineral Content. Interesting…

Ines Astudillo,paediatric dietitian

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