Accumulating Calcium

Osteoporosis affects 25 million American a year and contributes to approximately 1.3 million bone fractures per year according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Maximizing calcium intake in child hood is critical for the development of a maximum bone mass and reducing the risks of osteoporosis. Within 20 years, estimates are that more than 41 million Americans will have osteoporosis if current calcium trends are not reversed.

Only about 10 to 25% of children and adolescents are taking optimal calcium levels. Teens are especially at risk for inadequate calcium intake, especially with the increase in the consumption of sodas. In a 1994 survey, nearly three-fourths of teenage boys drank an average of 34 ounces (almost three 12-ounce cans) of soda per day. Two-thirds of teenage girls drank 23 ounces of soda per day. A study from 1998 showed that only 19% of adolescents were aware of the recommended daily allowance for calcium, and their average calcium intake was about 50% of the requirements.

Many children and adults need to consume a calcium supplement to insure that they are meeting requirements and maximize their chances of avoiding osteoporosis. It is important to let children and teens know that while they are young, this is their chance to build bone and their calcium intake will influence this process.

Below are two charts. The first defines current calcium requirements based on age group. These requirements apply to males and females. Lactating and pregnant women should consume the levels appropriate for their age. The second chart gives calcium content of some common foods. If you see that your child does not consume enough calcium for his or her age group, find a calcium supplement to make up the difference.

Calcium Daily Reference Intake

Age *AI (mg/day)
0 to 6 months 210
6 to 12 months 270
1 to 3 years 500
4 to 8 years 800
9 to 18 years 1,300
19 to 50 years 1,000
51+ years 1,200

*AI = Adequate Intake

Calcium Foods Amount Mg Calcium
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup 89
Collards, cooked 1/2 cup 179
Milk, skim 1 cup 316
Milk, 1% 1 cup 300
Milk, 2% 1 cup 352
Yogurt, plain, low-fat 4 oz. 207
Swiss cheese 1 oz. 220
Cheddar cheese 1 oz. 205
Mozzarella cheese 1 oz. 207
Sardines, canned 3 oz. 372
Salmon, canned 3 oz. 191
Tofu 1/2 cup 118