Due to the escalating incidence of osteoporosis, awareness has increased regarding the loss of bone later in life, however, very little attention has been given to the other half of the equation: gaining bone during the growing years. Approximately 90% of bone is laid down by age 17 and only another 10% can be added up to age 30. To this end, The National Institute of Child and Human Development is now calling osteoporosis "a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences." This means that the stage for osteoporosis is set by the quality of bone in childhood. Lack of adequate nutrition reduces the chances of putting bone in the bank for later in life.

The importance of calcium intake early in life, in order to obtain peak bone density, is crucial for preventing osteoporosis later in life. From birth to puberty, skeletal growth increases by sevenfold and another threefold during adolescence. However, it is estimated that between the ages of 9 and 19, only 19% of girls and 52% of boys have adequate calcium intake. Furthermore, the increase in junk food and soft drink consumption (up 500% since the 1950s) causes calcium to be pulled out of the body leading to an even greater risk of bone loss. We are already seeing the effects with the increase in breaks and fractures among teens and children.

Supplementation makes a difference. A study done on identical twins showed that the twin who had been supplemented pre-puberty with calcium had higher bone density than the other twin, who was supplemented post puberty and could not catch up. A study of girls aged 12 to 16 who were supplemented with 500mg/day of organic chelated calcium had a 14% increase in bone density in comparison to those who were not supplemented. The gains were lost when supplementation was discontinued emphasizing the need for continual supplementation. It is estimated that for every 5% increase in bone mass, the risk of fracture decreases by 40%! Lifelong calcium intake has a much greater effect on preventing osteoporosis than supplementation later in life.

When choosing a calcium supplement it is important to consider several key factors:

Higher Magnesium to Calcium Ratio – High doses of calcium can cause magnesium deficiency. Without adequate magnesium, calcium cannot be properly utilized and becomes a pollutant rather than a nutrient. A higher ratio of magnesium makes it possible to utilize both supplemented and dietary calcium in the body.

Liquid Form – Liquid supplements provide enhanced availability, as they do not require breakdown by the digestive tract before the active ingredients can be released and absorbed.

Form of Calcium – Calcium lactate and gluconate, are “ready” to absorb. They are in an ionized and soluble state and their absorption is approximately 45% even with low stomach acid.

Dose of Calcium – Low doses of calcium allow for absorption of other nutrients which are absolutely essential for the proper utilization of calcium. Large doses of calcium, especially without the presence of adequate magnesium can cause the body to deposit calcium in soft tissue where it causes problems such as kidney stones and arteriosclerosis.

Fruit Juice and Herb Base – The presence of fruit juice has been shown to enhance mineral absorption and retention. It enhances stomach acid and because of certain nutrients, such as calcium and zinc, only absorb together in the presence of food. A formula with added digestive herbs is said to stimulate digestion and reduce the common side effect of bloating.

Harmful Additives – 70% of calcium supplements tested were found to be contaminated with lead. Ensure that heavy metal testing has been completed on your calcium product. A quality supplement will guarantee no pesticide residues, preservatives, or food coloring.

Readers wanting more information on bone health may request a free copy of Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink's booklet "Bone Health 101" by calling 1-800-446-2110

Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink Naturopathic Physician and registered Midwife recommends most to her patients Floradix Calcium Magnesium which is available in most health food stores. www.florahealth.com