Only 13.5 percent of girls and 36.3 percent of boys age 12 to 19 in the US get the recommended daily amount (RDA) of calcium, placing them at serious risk for osteoporosis and other bone diseases. Because nearly 90 percent of adult bone mass is established by the end of this age range, the nation's youth stand in the midst of a calcium crisis.
Osteoporosis is a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences. With low calcium intake levels during these important bone growth periods, today's children and teens are certain to face a serious public health problem in the future.
Children are drinking more soft drinks and more non-citrus drinks than they used to; meanwhile, milk consumption has dropped. The number of fractures among children and young adults has increased, probably due to lower intakes of calcium. Pediatricians are also seeing the emergence of rickets, a bone disease that results from low levels of vitamin D.
As these children get older, this calcium crisis will become more serious as the population starts to show its highest rate of osteoporosis and other bone health problems. Getting children to pay attention to their calcium needs is a challenge for scientists and educators.