Osteoporosis, a disease of increased bone fragility, is often thought of as a disorder that primarily affects the elderly. In reality, the origins of this condition are established in early childhood and adolescence.
In a new clinical report, "Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents," in the October 2014 Pediatrics (published online Sept. 29), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discusses strategies pediatricians can use in health care visits to optimize children's bone health.
According to the AAP, the primary source of nutrition for healthy infants should continue to be human milk, or infant formula if human milk is not available. After the first year of life, the main source of dietary calcium should be milk and other dairy products, which combined account for 70 to 80 percent of dietary calcium intake.
The AAP recommends that pediatricians encourage children and adolescents to increase their daily intake of calcium and vitamin D-containing foods and beverages. This can include nonfat milk and low-fat yogurts, both good sources of calcium.
The AAP supports the higher recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D, advised by the Institute of Medicine, but does not suggest universal screening for vitamin D deficiency in healthy children. Screening for vitamin D deficiency should be targeted at children and adolescents with recurrent low-impact fractures or those with medical conditions associated with reduced bone mineral density.
Pediatricians should also ask about the type and amount of exercise children are receiving and encourage weight-bearing activities such as walking, dancing and running to help optimize bone health throughout childhood and adolescence.
Listen as Dr. Neville Golden discusses the importance of bone health in children and how parents can encourage exercise and good nutrition habits to optimize future bone health of their children.