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How Much Calcium for Teenagers?

by
author image Sukhsatej Batra
As a scientist and educator, Sukhsatej Batra has been writing instructional material, scientific papers and technical documents since 2001. She has a diverse scientific background, having worked in the fields of nutrition, molecular biology and biochemistry. Batra holds a PhD in foods and nutrition, and a certificate in professional technical communication.
How Much Calcium for Teenagers?
Teenage girl holding a glass of milk and smiling. Photo Credit ariwasabi/iStock/Getty Images

The requirement for calcium is higher during the teen years than at any other stage of life. Your child goes through a period of rapid growth as a teenager, and the need for calcium is critical as they grow taller. The calcium your teen gets from diet is deposited on her bones as they increase in size and mass. Teenagers who consume the recommended amounts of calcium have dense bones and are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis or bone fractures later in life.

Calcium Needs

Teenagers need 1,300 mg of calcium daily, according to the recommended dietary allowances set by the Institute of Medicine. This is the amount required for kids from the ages of 9 to 18, after which the daily requirement drops to 1000 mg. On the website Milk Matters, the National Institute of Health states that children attain 90 percent of their adult bone mass by the age of 17, which explains the increased need during the teen years.

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Strengthening Bones

Your teen needs to have adequate amounts of vitamin D to absorb calcium from the calcium-rich foods they eat. Milk and milk products, such as cheese and yogurt, are excellent sources of both these nutrients. Other food sources of calcium include fortified orange juice and cereals; canned fish with soft bones, such as sardines; and dark-green leafy vegetables, such as mustard and turnip greens. Encouraging your teen to walk, jog or play outdoors in the sun is an easy way for them to get vitamin D. This will also enhance bone health, as physical activity makes bones stronger.

Teenage Calcium Intake

As your teens replace a glass of milk with a can of soda, they are sacrificing their bone health. The Harvard Medical School reports that risk of bone fracture increases in teenage girls who drink carbonated beverages. The National Institutes of Health also state that only one out of 10 girls and one out of four boys are consuming sufficient amounts of calcium. Adequate calcium intake at all ages is very important, because the Surgeon General warns that unless people change their dietary habits, half of Americans over age 50 will have weak bones by 2020.

Calcium and Bones

Until the age of 30, your body will continue to add calcium to your bones, making them dense and strong. As a natural process of growing older, bone mass starts to decline after your mid-30s. While bone loss continues as you age, it is more rapid in postmenopausal women when estrogen production stops. This makes women more susceptible to osteoporosis, when bones become fragile, brittle and more likely to fracture. This condition is widespread, according to the 2004 Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis, as about 10 million Americans over age 50 have hip osteoporosis.

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