Calcium Supplements in Kids Overrated?
Children Who Get Calcium-Fortified Foods or Pills Don't Develop Stronger Bones, Study Shows
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Kids Need Calcium continued...
The Winzenberg analysis found that calcium supplements didn't have an
effect, even in kids who were getting too little calcium in their diets. But
only three of the studies included in the analysis included kids getting less
than 500 milligrams of calcium a day.
"If a child is getting up to 600 milligrams to 800 milligrams of calcium
a day, giving more will not help," Heaney says. "So if a child is in
that range, I would predict a study would not find any improvement from calcium
Andrew Shao, PhD, is vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at
the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement-industry trade group. He
says that though the Winzenberg group did a thorough analysis of the clinical
data, its conclusions are based on giving calcium supplements for a relatively
"One thing that hasn't been done in clinical trials is looking at
long-term calcium supplements over the years where peak bone mass is
achieved," Shao says. "That is the most critical piece of evidence
Indeed, Winzenberg and colleagues do stressstress the need for long-term studies of calcium
supplements in children in their peak bone-building years.
Getting Calcium Naturally
A major source of calcium is dairy foods. In a written statement, the
National Dairy Council tells WebMD it isn't surprised by the study
"Supplements don't measure up to milk and dairy foods when it comes to
nutrition," the NDC says. "In addition to being an excellent source of
calcium, milk provides vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are
essential for optimal bone health and human development."
Still, some kids don't get enough of these essential nutrients. Might
supplements help? Yes, says Heaney.
"Food sources of calcium have to be preferred overwhelmingly," he
says. "But that is not to condemn supplements. Well-formulated supplements
will allow you to absorb as much calcium in milk or in calcium-fortified orange