Bone health starts early


World Osteoporosis Day, observed annually on October 20, puts the spotlight on the importance of bone-healthy nutrition from early life through to adulthood. This year’s theme focuses on Nutrition and addresses the public health challenges associated with insufficient intake of calcium, vitamin D and protein as well as other micronutrients crucial to bone health. Bone health starts in the womb so good nutrition is key to strong bones throughout life.

The majority of people are not getting their recommended daily allowances of calcium and vitamin D. In fact, worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood, and deficiencies can be found in all ethnicities and age groups. In China, estimates from the Health Status Survey in 2002 indicated that less than 10 percent of Chinese citizens had an adequate dietary intake of calcium. Chronic untreated calcium deficiency can have many severe consequences, including osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis has been defined as a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences, emphasizing that bone health is shaped very early in life; in fact in the womb. Poor nutritional status of the mother can impact on the optimal growth of the baby’s skeleton. It has been associated with reduced adult bone mineral content at peak bone mass and in later life, as well as increased risk of hip fracture.

Beyond this, childhood and adolescence is a critical time for bone building as during this period both the size and strength of our bones increases significantly. Approximately half of our bone mass is accumulated during adolescence. This process continues until the mid-20s when peak bone mass is generally achieved (the maximum amount of bone possible during skeletal growth).

Helping a child achieve optimal bone strength is beneficial in late adulthood as there is more bone in reserve from which to draw; unlike in their younger years adults cannot replace bone tissue as quickly as they lose it. It is believed that a 10 percent increase in peak bone mineral density (BMD) – one measure of bone strength – could delay the development of osteoporosis by 13 years.

Prof. John Kanis, President, IOF, said “Our skeleton is very much like a house. It needs to be built with the right material to keep the structure strong and maintained over time to avoid any long-term damage. That’s why eating foods such as dairy products, oily fish, fruits and vegetables will provide us with the essential nutrients that are the key building blocks of strong bones.”

Judy Stenmark, CEO, IOF added that “Nintey-nine percent of the one kilogram of calcium found in the average body resides in our bones, which highlights why we need to get our recommended daily intake as fuel for the production and maintenance of bone. I encourage everyone to take the IOF Calcium Calculator test to find out how much calcium they are getting and how they can boost their intake.”

Calcium Calculators are available for free at:

Online calculator:

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Wear white on October 20 as a reminder to embrace better bone health.