To determine how the intake of dietary calcium affects bone mineral content (BMC) - a marker for bone strength - in children, researchers used an evidence-based approach to assess data from 21 randomized clinical trials with more than 3,800 children.
Statistically pooled data revealed that those kids who had inadequate calcium consumption prior to the start of these studies experienced a substantial increase in their total body BMC that was approximately 25 times greater than children who already consumed adequate amounts of calcium.
Equally important, the study suggests the existence of a calcium threshold for bone health - that is, the level of calcium intake that triggers a significant effect.
"Dairy and other foods that are rich in calcium are thought to be important for the growth and strengthening of bones in children and adolescents," said Michael Huncharek MD, MPH, Director of the Meta-Analysis Research Group and lead author of the study.
"In the US, dairy products tend to be the preferred source of calcium since diets that exclude dairy are often deficient in this important nutrient," he added.
"The new findings show that for those children who have inadequate calcium intake, increasing dietary calcium has a significant impact on bone development.
"Since most children don't get enough calcium, meeting calcium recommendations may help to prevent future osteoporosis," he added.
The study is published in the journal Bone.