By Dr. Sally Robinson and Dr. Keith Bly
is one of the most important minerals that the body needs. The body
uses calcium to build strong bones, which dont completely
develop until about age 17.
Calcium content in the bones begins to decrease after the teen years,
especially in women. Children and teens that dont get enough
calcium increase their risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone disease
which causes the bones to weaken and break easily.
Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in a childs body is stored
in his or her bones and teeth. The remaining 1% is in the bloodstream.
It is delivered throughout the body and plays a role in muscle contraction,
blood clotting, absorption of other minerals, and message transmission
If the level of calcium in the blood is low due to poor calcium
intake, it is taken from the bones to make sure that the bodys
cells function properly.
Many children do not get the FDA-recommended amount of calcium per
day that their body needs. This may be due to the fact that many
children drink more soda than milk. Carbonated beverages also contain
chemicals that interfere with the way the body absorbs calcium.
Children, up to age 3 need between 500 and 800 milligrams of calcium
per day; ages 4 to 8 should get about 800 milligrams daily; ages
9 to 18 should get 1300 to 1500 milligrams. Milk and other dairy
products are the best sources of calcium, but beans, cheese, yogurt,
broccoli and other dark green, leafy vegetables, almonds, and calcium-fortified
juices are also other good sources.
Children under 1 year-old should not have milk products because
of the possibility of allergy. Children between 1 and 2 years should
drink whole milk because it provides dietary fats, which kids this
age need for normal growth and brain development. After age 2, most
children can switch to low fat or nonfat milk, but check with your
childs pediatrician before switching. All milk contains the
same amount of calcium, no matter what the fat content is.
Children that are allergic to milk or that are lactose intolerant
can get calcium from soy-based or lactose-free products that are
sold in most stores. If you are concerned that your child is not
getting enough calcium, ask your pediatrician about calcium supplements.
Sally Robinson is Professor of Pediatrics, and Dr. Keith Bly is
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical
Branch at Galveston Children's Hospital. For more information, visit: