Calcium and bone health in children: a review

Am J Ther. 1997 Jul-Aug;4(7-8):259-73. doi: 10.1097/00045391-199707000-00007.


The recent national survey shows that dietary calcium intake is variable in children and adolescents, with about half consuming less than the intake recommended by the Recommended Dietary Allowances or the National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel on Optimal Calcium Intake. Osteoporosis is a major disease in adults, resulting in 1.5 million fractures and over $10 billion in medical expenditures annually. Osteoporosis is of growing interest in the research, public health, and health consumer-lay communities and to the many primary care and specialty physicians and other health care professionals who work directly with patients with osteoporosis. Treatment of osteoporosis to prevent fracture is improving with newly introduced medications and approaches, but it is not as effective as needed. Effective prevention strategies are critical to decreasing the morbidity and mortality of the disease. Peak bone mass, obtained during childhood and adolescent growth, is one of the major determinants for the risk of developing osteoporosis and fracture. Genetic potential, gender, ethnic origins, nutritional factors such as calcium and vitamin D intake, growth patterns, and physical activity influence the accretion of bone mineral during childhood and determine the peak bone mass. Randomized, placebo-controlled intervention trials conducted in healthy children who are consuming amounts of dietary calcium in accordance with the US recommendations show that bone mass can be increased by calcium supplementation. Retrospective studies in adults suggest that childhood calcium intake is associated with risk of later osteoporosis and fracture. In addition, common childhood clinical conditions, such as low calcium intake related to lactose intolerance or the use of glucocorticoid medications for chronic illness, are risk factors for the development of osteoporosis in childhood, not just in adulthood. An approach for physicians and other pediatric care providers for screening children for low dietary calcium intake, low bone density, and other osteoporosis risk factors using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and the use of calcium supplementation in clinical care are presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Density*
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Osteoporosis / diagnosis
  • Osteoporosis / etiology*
  • Osteoporosis / therapy
  • Risk Factors


  • Calcium, Dietary