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J Fam Health Care. 2008;18(1):22-4.

Children's bone health and meeting calcium needs.


One in two women and one in five men suffer from osteoporotic fractures after the age of 50. Enabling children and young people to develop strong bones and achieve their maximum potential bone mass will help prevent undue bone loss and osteoporosis in later life. Although 70-80% of peak bone mass is genetically determined, the remainder is determined by dietary and environmental factors. The most important dietary factor for bone health is calcium, which in the UK is obtained mainly from dairy foods (45%) and cereal-based foods (27%). In the UK one-quarter of teenage girls consume insufficient calcium to meet their minimum dietary requirements. The majority of teenage boys and girls fail to meet the UK Government's targets for calcium intakes. This is an important public health issue as 90% of peak bone mass is attained by the age of approximately 18 years in girls and 20 years in boys. Health professionals need to be aware of the importance of childhood and adolescence for building healthy bones and to work with this age group to promote the dietary and lifestyle factors that contribute to bone health and peak bone mass. They could usefully include advice on including three helpings of calcium in the diet each day, as highlighted in the current "3-a-Day" campaign.

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