It has been said that osteoporosis is a “geriatric disease with pediatric origins”. But preventative care needs to be a priority in young people.
Studies show if you can build strong bones throughout childhood and adolescence, bone loss in later years will have less effect. In fact, the time of greatest bone growth is during puberty and adolescence. For young boys and girls between ages 11-17 this is when maximum bone growth takes place. In fact, you build about 90% of your bone by the time you’re 20! 
And when it comes to girls, they can accrue as much bone around their first menstrual cycle as is lost in the last 4 decades of life! 
Preventative Care for Osteoporosis
Forming bone healthy habits early in life will not only contribute to the bone building process and ensure that young people achieve optimal bone mass, but this preventative care will reduce the risk of bone loss later in life.
You may have heard of the analogy called: The Bone Bank. The Bone Bank is the idea that the more bone you save up during your early years, the more bone you can draw from later in life.
So how long do you have to save up?
Until you reach 26 years of age or so. At or around 26 years of age you then plateau, meaning you are no longer building bone. Then, at around age 35 you begin to lose on average 1% of your bone density each year! Now you might begin to see the importance of The Bone Bank.
As you can see men reach a higher peak bone mass than women. Boys and girls build about the same amount of bone before puberty, but after puberty, boys tend to build more bone mass.
Causes of Juvenile Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is typically seen in adult postmenopausal women, but can also show up in young children.
Juvenile osteoporosis or osteoporosis in children is usually seen as a secondary feature either from a chronic disease or from treatment (medications) for a chronic condition. Some of the diseases that can lead to osteoporosis in children are: 
- Coeliac disease
- Kidney Disease
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- Osteogenesis imperfecta
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Anorexia nervosa
If your child is taking medication to treat a disease, the medication itself may lead to bone loss. Common medications that affect bone mass include, but are not limited to:
- Anticonvulsants (commonly known as antiepileptic drugs or antiseizure drugs)
- Corticosteroids (can be used for asthma and rheumatoid arthritis)
- Immunosuppressive agents (ex: for cancer)
If your child is exhibiting the following symptoms of juvenile osteoporosis, the best course of action is to identify the underlying problem and treat the disorder. In the case of juvenile osteoporosis where medication is the cause, you may consider an alternative medication if your doctor may consider prescribing it.
Signs and symptoms of juvenile osteoporosis:
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the hips, knees, ankles and feet
- Difficulty walking
- Fractures without significant trauma
Secondary features of osteoporosis are more common than the primary condition, known as idiopathic osteoporosis. Idiopathic osteoporosis is a primary condition of osteoporosis that has no known cause and is extremely rare. So rare in fact that as of 1997 only 150 cases have been reported in medical literature. 
For all children, a healthy diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and bone supporting minerals, plus physical activity is recommended. To ensure your child is getting the adequate nutrients they need during this crucial time of bone growth, a natural supplement may be necessary.
4 Bone Healthy Habits to Focus On
Forming bone healthy habits and focusing on preventative care during youth will not only build up your Bone Bank, but reduce your risk of osteoporosis later in life.
The following are 4 bone healthy habits to focus on and why:
Specifically osteoporosis exercises, but don’t let that scare you. Osteoporosis exercises focus on weight-bearing exercise, which literally means ‘to bear your own weight’. It is one of the best things you can do to increase your bone strength because of the concentrated pressure it puts on your bones. When you don’t regularly stress your muscles, joints and bones, they begin to weaken over time. Weight bearing exercises include but are not limited to running, lifting weights, resistance training, team sports like soccer and hiking. See the 5 easy to do resistance exercises you can do anywhere for ideas. Participation in sports whether during school or after school programs will ensure your child is getting regular exercise. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends children ages 5-17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day. More than 60 minutes will also provide additional health benefits. The benefits of physical activity for youth are the following:
- Develop healthy bones, muscles and joints
- Develop a healthy heart and lungs for cardiovascular system
- Develop coordination and movement control (neuromuscular awareness)
- Maintain a healthy body weight
…which brings us to the next bone healthy habit.
#2 Maintain a Healthy Body Weight:
Being both underweight and overweight can increase your child’s risk of osteoporosis. Specifically in young women, extreme body thinness can result in estrogen deficiency or amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation). This estrogen deficiency contributes to bone loss in the same way that menopause contributes to bone loss in older women. This is not only preventative care for osteoporosis, but for self-esteem and mental wellness.
#3 Cut Out Smoking:
One study showed that even low levels of smoking during adolescence had a negative impact on bone accrual. Adolescence is a time where youth need to be giving their body what it needs. It’s growing, learning, functioning and smoking hinders that. With continued smoking behavior, one could surmise that lumbar spine BMD could become dramatically lower throughout adulthood. However, it is concerning that even these relatively low levels of smoking have a negative impact on bone accrual. 
#4 Adequate Calcium and Bone Building Nutrients:
According to the USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals, the following percentage of Americans are not meeting the recommended daily intake for calcium.  With phosphate rich soft drinks more frequently replacing milk or other calcium rich drinks among young people, the figures below are a recipe for disaster!
- 44% of boys and 58% of girls ages 6-11
- 64% of boys and 87% of girls ages 12-19
- 55% of men and 78% of women ages
Citing studies that report 87% of adolescent girls and 64% of boys do not consume sufficient calcium and bone building nutrients for normal bone growth, the US Surgeon General reports that the absence of adequate nutrition during these critical bone-building years has placed America’s bone health in jeopardy.
The Surgeon General goes on to recommend calcium and vitamin D supplementation for children, adolescents and adults. In addition, we now know that calcium and vitamin D is just the start. For strong and healthy bones, one also needs magnesium, selenium, silica, manganese, boron and more. Fortunately there is a plant-based calcium that has all of the bone building nutrients in their natural proportions, but more on that below.
How Much Calcium Does Your Child Need?
|Table 1: Recommended Adequate Intake By The IOM For Calcium|
|Male and Female Age||Calcium (mg/day)||Pregnancy and Lactation|
|0 – 6 months||210||N/A|
|7 – 12 months||270||N/A|
|1 – 3 years||500||N/A|
|4 – 8 years||800||N/A|
|9 – 13 years||1300||N/A|
|14 – 18 years||1300||1300|
|19 – 50 years||1000||1000|
|51 + years||1200||N/A|
The above chart refers to elemental (pure) calcium. Each AlgaeCal Plus capsule contains 180 mg elemental calcium in addition to the other bone building nutrients needed. The average daily diet also contributes anywhere from 200-500 mg of calcium, too.
Preventing bone loss in young adults needs to become a priority.
If we can help young adults reach a 10% higher peak bone mass before age 20, the OIF has stated it will reduce their fracture risk by 50%!
Preventative care is as important as ever. Make sure your child is getting enough. To find out more, click here.
- Dorn, Beal et al. (2012) Longitudinal Impact of Substance Use and Depressive Symptoms on Bone Accrual Among Girls Aged 11–19 Years. Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 52, Issue 4, p393–399
- Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals, 1994-96
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis:A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2004.