Optimizing bone health in children and adolescents

Pediatrics. 2014 Oct;134(4):e1229-43. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-2173.


The pediatrician plays a major role in helping optimize bone health in children and adolescents. This clinical report reviews normal bone acquisition in infants, children, and adolescents and discusses factors affecting bone health in this age group. Previous recommended daily allowances for calcium and vitamin D are updated, and clinical guidance is provided regarding weight-bearing activities and recommendations for calcium and vitamin D intake and supplementation. Routine calcium supplementation is not recommended for healthy children and adolescents, but increased dietary intake to meet daily requirements is encouraged. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the higher recommended dietary allowances for vitamin D advised by the Institute of Medicine and supports testing for vitamin D deficiency in children and adolescents with conditions associated with increased bone fragility. Universal screening for vitamin D deficiency is not routinely recommended in healthy children or in children with dark skin or obesity because there is insufficient evidence of the cost-benefit of such a practice in reducing fracture risk. The preferred test to assess bone health is dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, but caution is advised when interpreting results in children and adolescents who may not yet have achieved peak bone mass. For analyses, z scores should be used instead of T scores, and corrections should be made for size. Office-based strategies for the pediatrician to optimize bone health are provided. This clinical report has been endorsed by American Bone Health.

Keywords: DXA; calcium; dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry; osteoporosis; pediatrics; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control


  • Calcium, Dietary