Strong bones for life

Having strong bones for life starts from birth. Your age, pregnancy, as well as your lifestyle, in particular your diet and the amount of exercise you get, will further influence the risk of deficiencies and fractures. Investing in healthy bones will save you a lot of inconvenience and discomfort later!

Childhood and adolescence:
from soft cartilage to firm bones

Bone formation of the unborn baby starts in the womb at around the 7th week. During pregnancy, until shortly after delivery, the baby mainly has cartilage, which is much softer than bone and also flexible. This is so that the baby is flexible enough to pass through the birth canal during delivery. About 3 months after birth, we see the start of “ossification”; the hardening and closure of the bones. It takes a total of about two years before the bones are completely closed.

The first rapid bone growth occurs from two years of age. This is followed by multiple spurts of growth up to puberty.

Bone density is mostly built around the age of 17 and 20 in girls and boys respectively. Because boys are also involved in sports a bit more often, their bones often become somewhat stronger. Under the influence of strength training, bones are subjected to positive stress, which ensures better bone density and therefore better bone development. For this reason, it is important to get children interested in sports at an early age.

An adequate vitamin D level in children is important for proper calcium absorption in the bones. Together with adequate calcium absorption through the diet, it is also necessary to build and maintain strong bones. That is why milk and derived products should make up a significant part of the diet of young children. 

Conclusion: an adequate vitamin D level, sufficient calcium intake and regular exercise are an absolute must in early childhood. Because the higher the bone density at a young age, the longer we will enjoy strong bones. So that you reap the benefits not only at a young age, but also many years later.

Pregnancy and postnatal

The Belgian Superior Health Council recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a daily supplement containing 20 micrograms (or 800 IE, International Units) of vitamin D, combined with a higher calcium requirement of 1200 mg. It is therefore important to supplement the diet sufficiently with calcium-rich ingredients (dairy products and green leafy vegetables). Not only to maintain the bone density of the mother, but also for the bone development of the unborn child.

The midlife crisis of our bones

As we start approaching our 40th birthday, our bone density begins to decline slowly and our bones gradually become more fragile. As a result, the risk of bone fractures increases. Between the ages of 20 and 40, the build-up and breakdown of our bones is well balanced. Indeed, our body also breaks down our bones themselves, given that they are a source of calcium. The body takes the calcium from the bones and donates it to our blood. However, when we break something, the body will also extract calcium from other bones to repair the damaged bone. Around the age of 40, breakdown proceeds faster than renewal, bone density begins to decrease, we lose as much as 0.3 to 0.5% of our bone mass per year and we shrink.

In women, the menopause has a negative impact on bone density. Because the female estrogen hormone decreases during menopause, women lose 1 to 3% of their bone mass during the first five years of menopause.

In addition, many over 50 are also often less physically active, with some not going outside very often, leading to less absorption of vitamin D, and undergoing all sorts of changes under the influence of hormones. That is why it is advised to increase the calcium intake to 1,100 - 1,200 mg per day around the age of 50. Physical exercise promotes the absorption of calcium. So you also have to keep on exercising in this phase of life!