Calcium And Adolescents

Overview & Description

Calciumis a mineral. It plays a crucial role in building healthy teeth and bones.Unfortunately, most adolescents do not eat enough high-calcium foods.That puts them at risk of developing osteoporosiswhen they get older.


Here are some ways that teens can increase their calciumintake:

  • Eat or drink 3 to 4 servings of low-fat dairy foods, such as low-fat milk,yogurt, or cheese, each day.
  • Eat at least one non-dairy source of calcium, such as green leafyvegetables or dry beans and peas, each day.
  • Drink fewer soft drinks and substitute calcium-fortified juices or soymilkfor some of the servings.
  • Try substituting hard cheese and yogurt for some of the milk if theyare lactose intolerant. These foods may be better tolerated. Lactose-freeand low-lactose milks are also available. There is also medicine thatcan ease symptoms. Many teens with lactose intolerancecan drink small amounts of milk with a meal without a problem.
  • Add some calcium-fortified foods to the diet. Choose healthy foods,such as 100% fruit juices or whole grain cereals.
  • Watch the amount of salt consumed in snack foods, convenience foods,and fast foods, as it raises the amount of calcium lost in the urine. Onestudy of teenage girls reported that for every 1000 mg of salt consumed,an extra 26 mg of calcium was removed from the body with urine.
  • Spend time outdoors. Sunlight provides the body withvitamin D,which helps to maintain proper blood levels of calcium.
  • Add nonfat dry milk powder to milk, cream soups, hot cereal, or othermilk-containing products to increase calcium content.
  • A person who cannot or will not consume enough calcium fromfood should take a calcium supplement. For best absorption, no more than500 mg should be taken at one time. As other nutrients affect calciumabsorption, it may be wise to take a multivitamin and mineral supplementas well.

    Functions and Sources

    What food source is the nutrient found in?

    About 75 percent of the calcium in the American diet comes fromdairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. These foods are bestbecause they contain high amounts of calcium. For instance, 8 ouncesof milk, 1 cup of yogurt, and 1.5 ounces of cheese each contain 300 mgof calcium. They also provide other nutrients that help the body betterabsorb calcium, such as vitamin D,potassium,and magnesium.Dairy products are a good source of proteinand riboflavin,which are needed for proper growth and development.

    Vegetables, grains, and beans also provide calcium, but thecalcium in these foods is not absorbed as well as the calcium in dairyfoods.

    Calcium may be poorly absorbed in these foods:

  • spinach, sweet potatoes, and beans, which are high in oxalic acid
  • unleavened bread, raw beans, seeds, and nuts
  • As a result, several servings of these foods are needed toprovide the body with the same amount of calcium present in oneserving of dairy products.

    Extra calcium has been added to some foods. These include:

  • breakfast cereals
  • waffles
  • juices
  • snack bars
  • soymilk
  • candy
  • It is not known how much of this added calcium is absorbedby the body. Limited studies of calcium-fortified orange juice suggestthat the absorption rate is about the same as milk.

    How does the nutrient affect the body?

    Calcium is needed for building healthy teeth and bones.Strong bones enable a person to stay physically active all through hisor her life. It also reduces a person’s risk forosteoporosisas he or she gets older.

    During the teen years, physical activity andnutrition play a key role in hip development. This is the timewhen calcium is best absorbed and when most bones are formed.By the time a person reaches the age of 17, about 90 percent of his or heradult bone mass has been reached. To support the growth of strongbones, federal guidelines recommend that children between the ages of9 and 18 consume 1300 mg of calcium each day. This equals more thanfour glasses of milk.

    The gap between the amount of calcium that is recommendedand the amount of calcium the typical child gets each day is large.The average child gets about 700 to 1000 mg of calcium a day, withvalues at the higher end of the range occurring in males. About 69 percentof the recommended calcium intake is consumed by girls, ages 9-13.Girls who are ages 14-18 consume about 55 percent of the recommendeddaily calcium intake. Teens may not get enough calcium because:

  • they don’t eat or drink enough dairy foods
  • they don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables
  • they drink too many soft drinks
  • Another factor may be lactose intolerance.A person with lactose intolerance cannot digest lactose, the natural sugarpresent in milk. Symptoms after eating dairy products include:

  • bloating
  • gas
  • stomach cramping
  • diarrhea
  • Lactose intolerance is most common in AfricanAmericans, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans.

    Children and teens who do not consume enough calcium arenot able to achieve maximal bone mass. This puts them at risk forosteoporosis,which is brittle bone disease, when they get older. Osteoporosis affects morethan 25 million Americans, most of them women. There is no cure forosteoporosis, so prevention is key.

    Article type: xmedgeneral