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Recipe For Strong Teen Bones: Exercise, Calcium and Vitamin D

Exercise helps build strong bones for a lifetime, says one expert. (KG Sand Soccer/Flickr)

Exercise helps build strong bones for a lifetime, says one expert. (KG Sand Soccer/Flickr)

By Patti Neighmond, NPR

It’s really only a sliver of time when humans build the bulk of their skeleton. At age 9, the bones start a big growth spurt. And by the time puberty ends, around 14 or 15 years old, the adult-sized skeleton is all but done, about 90 percent complete.

But doctors say a lot of children aren’t getting what they need to do that. Calcium and vitamin D are essential, sure, but so is lots of time jumping and running.

“It’s the magic window of time when bone is built.”
“It’s the magic window of time when bone is built,” says Dr. Laura Tosi, an orthopedic surgeon who directs the pediatric bone health program at Children’s National Health system in Washington, D.C. And when it comes to bones, “bigger is definitely better,” she says. “The wider and thicker the bone, the harder it is to break or tear.”

Just about everybody knows that calcium and vitamin D are essential to build strong bones. But children and teenagers are all too often shunning the foods that would help them get enough calcium and vitamin D to build those bones.

Federal health officials recommend that children between the ages of 9 and 18 get 1,300 milligrams of calcium every day. That translates into four to five glasses of milk or the equivalent. According to Dr. Neville Golden, an adolescent medicine specialist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, most teens are not drinking anywhere near that amount. Continue reading