Osteoporosis has been called a pediatric disease with adult consequences. During childhood and adolescence, the skeleton grows in both size and density. Up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, which makes youth the best time to “invest” in bone health. However, adolescents and children in the United States aren’t getting enough bone-building nutrients in their daily diets, putting them at risk for fractures now and osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become weak and more likely to break, later in life.
The amount of bone tissue in the skeleton, known as bone mass, can keep growing until around age 30. At that point, bones have reached their maximum strength and density, known as peak bone mass.
Research shows that most Americans are eating only about half (1.7 servings) of the recommended three daily servings of dairy. In addition to calcium, dairy provides eight essential nutrients, including phosphorus, potassium, protein, vitamins D, A and B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents).
According to government statistics, nearly nine out of 10 women and almost four out of 10 men fall short of calcium recommendations. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of children ages 9-19 fail to get the recommended three daily servings of dairy.
The good news is that Americans of all ages can take simple steps now to help build and maintain strong bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The Surgeon General, The Institute of Medicine, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans agree that you can improve the health of your bones by engaging in regular physical activity and following a bone-healthy diet. Three daily servings of low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt as part of a healthy diet may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.