True or False? We Stop Absorbing Calcium in our 20s.

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You may have heard the body stops absorbing calcium in your mid-20s. When people hear this, many think consuming calcium each day is no longer necessary. So does the body still need calcium as we age, and why is it still important? 

Peak Bone Mass

Our bones are living tissues that are continuously changing - new bone is made, and old bone is broken down regularly. Because of this constant creation and depletion of bone tissue, we can think of bone as a bank account. During our early years, we make more bone tissue “deposits” than “withdraws,” increasing bone strength and density.

Between ages 25 and 30, our bones reach their maximum strength and density. This is referred to as peak bone mass. At this point, old bone begins breaking down slightly faster than new bone can form, causing bone to lose more bone mass than gain. Because of this, building up your “bone bank” from a young age is critical to preventing bone breaks, fractures and other bone conditions, such as osteoporosis.

Calcium Intake as We Age

Instead of saying we stop absorbing calcium as we age, it is better to understand the different reasons calcium is necessary after our late 20s. While bone mass cannot increase once we reach our peak bone mass, we can replace what we lose each day. In other words, we cannot increase our “bone savings,” but we can keep our bone bank account from getting smaller.

In addition, calcium is needed for a number of other functions. Calcium helps blood clot, assists with nerve function, aids in muscles building and contraction, and helps maintain a healthy heart.

Factors Affecting Bone Health

In addition to adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, a number of factors can affect bone health. These factors include:

  • Physical Activity - Those who are more physically active have a lower risk of osteoporosis than those who are inactive. 
  • Alcohol and Tobacco Use - Tobacco use and drinking more than two alcoholic beverages per day contributes to weakened bones and increases the risk of osteoporosis. 
  • Gender, Size and Age - Because women have less bone tissue than men, they are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Those who are extremely thin (BMI of 19 or less) or have a small body frame are also at an increased risk as there is less bone mass to draw from as you age. 
  • Race - Those of white or Asian descent are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. 
  • Family History - Having a parent or sibling who has osteoporosis puts one at a significant risk. 
  • Hormone Levels - Too much thyroid hormone can lead to bone loss. This is especially prevalent in women during menopause due to a drop in estrogen levels. Low testosterone levels can also cause a loss of bone mass in men.

How Much Calcium & Vitamin D Do You Need?

National nutrition surveys have shown that most people are not getting the calcium they need to grow and maintain healthy bones. Here are the Recommended Calcium Intakes (in milligrams) by age:

 Age Group  Recommended Daily Calcium Intake
  Infants 0 to 6 months
 200 mg/day
  Infants 6 to 12 months  265 mg/day
  1-3 years old  700 mg/day
  4-8 years old  1,000 mg/day
  9-13 years old  1,300 mg/day
  14-18 years old  1,300 mg/day
  19-30 years old  1,000 mg/day
  31-50 years old  1,000 mg/day
  51-70-year-old men  1,000 mg/day
 51-70-year-old women  1,200 mg/day
  71+ years old  1,200 mg/day
 14-18 years old, pregnant/lactating  1,300 mg/day
  19-50 years old, pregnant/lactating  1,000 mg/day


Healthy Calcium Sources

The best source of calcium comes from foods naturally high in calcium and calcium-fortified products. These can include:

  • Dairy products such as low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Green vegetables such as spinach, kale, spinach and okra.
  • Calcium-fortified products such as cereals, breads and bottled water.
Calcium supplements can also be a way to obtain the recommended amount of calcium each day. 

Promoting Bone Health at UnityPoint Health

Worried about your bone or joint health? Talk to your physician to learn more, based on your personal health needs.