Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Calcium Supplements in Kids Overrated?

Children Who Get Calcium-Fortified Foods or Pills Don't Develop Stronger Bones, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 18, 2006 -- Most kids who take calcium supplements -- or eat calcium-fortified foods -- don't get stronger bones, a review of clinical studies shows.

The review, by Tania Winzenberg, MD, and colleagues at Australia's Menzies Research Institute, analyzed data from 19 studies of calcium supplements in children aged 3 to 18 years. The researchers selected only studies that tested calcium supplements against inactive placebo and included measurements of bone densitybone density. The time frames of the studies were between 8.5 months and seven years.

Pooled data on all 2,859 children in the studies showed that calcium supplements had very little, if any, effect on children's bone density.

"There is 'gold' level evidence that calcium supplements may not help to build stronger bones in children enough to make a difference in the risk of breaking a bone," Winzenberg and colleagues write. "The results of this review do not support the use of calcium supplements in healthy children."

The findings appear in the current issue of The Cochrane Library. It is published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international effort to evaluate health care research based on stringent criteria.

The studies of calcium supplements included studies of calcium pills as well as calcium extracted from milk and added to foods.

"We found there wasn't much effect at all," Winzenberg told the Health Behavior News Service. "It does challenge what we thought we knew."

Kids Need Calcium

Kids' bone density is a major factor in how easily they fracture bones. But that's small potatoes compared to the lifelong consequences of too-low bone density. From the time people enter puberty until the time they are young adults, they build up essentially all the bone they ever will have. Low bone density during late childhood predicts osteoporosisosteoporosis in later life.

Childhood fracture rates are up -- a sign that kids aren't building strong enough bones. Calcium is a main ingredient for bone building, notes calcium and osteoporosis expert Robert Heaney, MD, professor of medicine at Creighton University in Omaha.

"You have to have calcium or you can't store it as bone," Heaney tells WebMD. "The human body is born with 25 grams of calcium at birth. We have to build that up by diet. The question is how much is enough to do that."

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration