Calcium is the building block of bones in a human body. Growing children need a sufficient amount of calcium so that they may have strong bones, good teeth, and healthy gums. The food children eat should be enriched with calcium. Depletion of calcium resources in the body, when young, may lead to problems like osteoporosis when the person is older.
There is some doubt as to whether children’s daily requirement of calcium can be satisfied with the food they have or should be given supplements. For instance, a study in Spain, conducted on children between 11 and 14 years of age showed that drinking calcium-rich water made them less vulnerable to fractures. Meanwhile, another study indicates that calcium supplement intake did not make a group of children less vulnerable to the risk of fractures and osteoporosis later in life.
A prevalent thought is that calcium supplement marketing is a multi-million dollar business that accounts for so much advocacy for it. Calcium supplements for children are available in attractive colors and delicious flavors. Coupled with premier advertising for these products, parents feel persuaded to buy the supplements so that children may remain healthy.
A study conducted on children between 3 and 18 years indicated that children given regular supplements of calcium showed improvement in bone density of upper limbs, but not in the bones of the neck and spine. This study examined the efficacy of only calcium supplements and not that of natural calcium that is available in dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.
Calcium available in natural form is more easily absorbed than supplements. This is the crucial mineral that needs to be replenished to maintain bone strength and health. It thus makes sense to include calcium-rich food in your child’s daily diet, rather than giving him supplements. When children are unable to absorb calcium from their regular diet, the physician may recommend apt supplements.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables creates a non-acidic environment in the body that is conducive to bone health. High acidity leads to the brittleness of bones.
Calcium requirement in children
|Age in years||mg Calcium required||Equal to – glasses of milk|
|1 to 3||500||2|
|4 to 8||800||3|
|9 to 18||1300||4|
As milk is a rich source of calcium, daily intake helps a child get the needed dose of calcium. But for children who do not like milk or are allergic to milk, an alternative supplement is required.
You can buy calcium-rich foods or calcium-fortified foods for these children. Other calcium-rich food items are oatmeal, nuts, wheat bran, milk, cheddar cheese, oranges, grapes, white beans, raw and cooked broccoli, soy milk, or milk of rice, calcium-fortified orange juice, and yogurt.
Check food labels for the milligrams of calcium in the product. Serve a combination of foods that will together add up to the calcium required for that particular age group. You can also opt for foods that say they are “rich in calcium”, “and high in calcium” or “excellent source of calcium”. These foods usually have about 200 mg of calcium per serving.
Related: Recipes for Homemade baby foods
Tips for giving the right kind of calcium
- Discourage children from consuming too many soft drinks as the phosphates in the drink will bring down calcium levels in the body
- Include food/supplements that are rich in calcium and magnesium for better bone strength
- When buying supplements look for “USP” (United States Pharmacopeia) or the “CL” (Consumer Lab) on the label. These letters tell you that the product meets voluntary industry standards of purity and quality
- Indiscriminate use of calcium may cause an overdose. Overdose of calcium causes health problems like tiredness, headache, constipation, dizziness, loss of appetite, abnormal thirst, and mental depression
Calcium is an important mineral to be given to children. It helps maintain bone density and keeps the teeth and gums healthy. There are varying opinions about whether children should be given calcium supplements. It is always better to serve children natural foods rich in calcium or fortified with calcium rather than giving them supplements. However, for children who are unable to absorb calcium from their daily diet, supplementing the mineral, as per the physician’s advice, is necessary.