Kids and Osteoporosis
What is osteoporosis?
Our peak bone mass is reached somewhere between our teen years through our twenties and then can begin to fall after the age of thirty. Today's adolescents and teens are at higher risk due to several lifestyle factors that will be reviewed.
Some children may have medical conditions which could lead to osteoporosis, such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. This condition, due to its effects on the immune system, on the bones adjacent to affected joints, and partially due to medications used for treatment, can lead to osteoporosis as a secondary problem. Epilepsy is controlled by many medications that can have the long term effect of causing osteoporosis. Other conditions that can lead to osteoporosis are hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and lactose intolerance or other malabsorption syndromes
There are also beliefs in the vegan community that drinking milk can actually lead to osteoporosis. As an alternative, some orange juice products have added calcium and Vitamin D as well as some cereals and soy milk although dairy milk provides much more per serving. There are other milk product alternatives on the market that have added calcium such as almond milk, rice milk, and soy milk. These typically provide less of the recommended daily allowance of calcium and vitamin D but can still be healthy alternatives. Cow's milk also provides more protein that milk alternatives.
Obesity can contribute to osteoporosis directly by reducing the positive impact of lean muscle mass on bones and by the lack of physical impact on bones through running and jumping which increases bone mass and density. Obesity can also contribute indirectly as overweight children will likely be spending less time playing outside or playing outdoor sports. This also means they are absorbing minimal amounts of Vitamin D which is absorbed by being in the sunlight. We are unable to absorb Vitamin D from the sunshine filtered through windows.
Occasionally we can see vitamin D deficiencies in certain cultural or religious groups that wear more concealing clothing including head coverings, that discourage outdoor activities or sports, and that encourage more indoor, scholarly activities. This can be observed in some ultra-orthodox Jewish populations and Muslim populations.
Smoking and drinking alcohol can lead to osteoporosis due to the negative impact of these habits directly on bones and circulation as well as the sedentary lifestyle often led by adolescents, teenagers, or young adults that display these more addictive behaviors.
The following tables are guides to recommended daily calcium intake for different age groups and also common foods and their calcium content: