How important is calcium for kids?

Calcium-rich foods have always been a must-have in the diets of children. After all, calcium is a key building block for strong, healthy bones. At every age, from infancy to adolescence, calcium is one nutrient that kids simply cant afford to skip.

There is more calcium in the body than any other mineral and it has several important functions. These include:
(1) helping build strong bones and teeth
(2) regulating muscle contractions, including heartbeat
(3) ensuring blood clots normally

During childhood and adolescence, the body uses the mineral calcium to build strong bones - a process thats all but complete by the end of the teen years. Bone calcium begins to decrease in young adulthood and progressive loss of bone occurs as we age, particularly in women. Teens, especially girls, whose diets dont provide the nutrients to build bones to their maximum potential are at greater risk of developing the bone disease osteoporosis, which increases the risk of fractures from weakened bones.

Younger kids and babies with little calcium and vitamin D intake (which aids in calcium absorption) are at increased risk for rickets. Rickets is a bone-softening disease that causes severe bowing of the legs, poor growth, and sometimes muscle pain and weakness.

Calcium plays an important role in muscle contraction, transmitting messages through the nerves, and the release of hormones. If blood calcium levels are low (due to poor calcium intake), calcium is taken from the bones to ensure normal cell function.

When kids get enough calcium and physical activity during childhood and the teen years, they can start out their adult lives with the strongest bones possible. For optimal bone health, doctors recommend:
(1) 1 to 3 years old - 700 milligrams of calcium daily
(2) 4 to 8 years old - 1000 milligrams
(3) 9 to 18 years old - 1,300 milligrams...