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Down to the bare bones – on calcium, magnesium and bone development

02 Jan., 2015

Bone development is one of the most important dimensions of child development. The importance of supporting this process has risen in the awareness of parents globally, a trend seen in the media as well as in the growing variety of fortified foods for children, such as cereals and juices that support bone development. This article will focus on two important minerals that are involved in bone development – Calcium and Magnesium.

Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in the human body. From the embryonic stage and throughout childhood and adolescence, the main role of the Calcium we consume is building the skeleton. Indeed, about 90% of peak bone mass is reached by the age of 18, making these young years so critical with regard to adequate Calcium consumption.

In order to reach the recommended Calcium levels it is recommended for children to consume 3 diary products a day. However, many children do not consume the recommended dose due to milk allergies, lactose intolerance and food preference. According to the US National Institutes of Health, fewer than one in ten girls and one in four boys get adequate Calcium. Calcium inadequacy is of special concern for girls aged 4 years and older and particularly for adolescent girls. In males the risk of inadequacy is mainly in the ages of 9 to 18 (1).

A 2008 study that assed Bone Mineral Content data (BMC), a marker of bone strength, from 21 randomized clinical trials with more than 3,800 children found that Calcium intake, according to the recommendations of the USDA, may significantly improve bone health in children (2).

Large - children on beach

Magnesium is another important factor in bone development. Beyond its proven contribution to normal Psychological functions (3), Magnesium is also a component in the bone’s matrix, being important to more than 300 enzymatic reactions that build it. A recent study presented to the American Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington showed that Magnesium may be as important to kids` bone health as calcium (4).

Our consumption of sufficient levels of Magnesium is dependant on eating a variety fruit, vegetables and whole-grains. Refined foods such as white breads that are often children`s favorites are low in Magnesium since in the process of refining the whole grains into white flower, the Magnesium rich germs and bran and removed.
Along side a well balanced diet, supplements that are especially designed for children, can offer them a reliable source of Calcium and Magnesium.

EFSA has approved several health claims concerning bone development:

  • Calcium is needed for normal growth and development of bone in Children (5)
  • Calcium is needed for the maintenance of normal bones (6)
  • Calcium is needed for the maintenance of normal bones (6)
  • Magnesium is needed to build healthy bones and teeth (3)


  1. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
  2. Huncharek M, Muscat J, Kupelnick B. Impact of dairy products and dietary calcium on bone-mineral content in children: results of a meta-analysis. Bone 2008;43:312-321. – See more at the link
  3. http://www.efsa.europe.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/1807.pdf
  4. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2013.
  5. EFSA – Art. 14(1)(b)
  6. EFSA – Art. 13(1)