Why do some children become stunted and absorb calcium poorly?

Calcium, often hailed as an unsung hero within our bodies, plays a myriad of vital roles that extend well beyond the mere construction of bones. Its significance reverberates throughout various facets of our overall well-being, impacting not just our skeletal structure but also our dental health, hormonal equilibrium, muscle and heart functions, and the transmission of nerve signals. The pivotal role that calcium plays in our lives becomes even more apparent when we contemplate the potential repercussions of its deficiency and poor absorption. Specifically, children who suffer from calcium deficiencies and inadequate absorption face the alarming risks of inhibited growth and cognitive impairment. As we delve deeper into the profound influence of calcium on our bodies, it becomes unmistakably clear that its contributions are nothing short of extraordinary.

Children are stunted due to calcium deficiency.

One of the main causes of stunting and slow height gain is mostly from calcium-deficient diets. Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the process of forming and nourishing bones and boosting height growth in each child. Therefore, at any stage, when children's bodies do not receive sufficient calcium, they will often suffer from anorexia, malnutrition, insomnia, and even mental retardation and stunting.

How to provide sufficient calcium to children?

Changing eating habits is the simplest way to replenish calcium in your body. In particular, children's bodies easily take calcium from daily meals with some foods, such as shrimp, crabs, oysters, fish, and so on; vegetables including lettuce, cabbage, kale, celery, beans, etc. Furthermore, to stimulate the development of the skeletal system, children need to be provided calcium from milk and dairy products, like yogurt, butter, cheese, etc. Vitamin K in vegetables is also considered a factor in forming osteocalcin, which helps accumulate calcium in the bones.

Seafood is considered a great source of calcium.

Seafood is considered a great source of calcium.

However, prolonged improper calcium supplementation can lead to a "retrograde effect", causing kidney stones, calcifying the arteries, etc. When calcium is overloaded, children often suffer from thirst, frequent urination, nausea, and arrhythmia. If children encounter such symptoms, parents should stop the calcium supplementation and take them to the hospital for timely treatment.

How much calcium do people need each day?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the daily necessary amount of calcium is divided by age: children under 6 months old require 300 mg/day; children from 7 to 12 months old require 400 mg/day; children from 1 to 3 years old require 500 mg/day; children from 4 to 6 years old require 600 mg/day; children from 7 to 9 years old require 700 mg/day; children from 10 years old require 1000 mg/day; people from 11 to 24 years old require 1200 mg/day; people from 24 to 50 years old require 800-1000 mg/day. Pregnant women and the elderly require 1200-1500 mg/day.

Children are stunted due to poor calcium absorption.

A child's body is capable of absorbing nutrients. However, this process of absorption is often different in each child. Some children absorb nutrients very well and vice versa. The absorption of calcium from the outside into the body is no exception. When eating calcium-rich foods, the bodies of children with good calcium absorption capacity will fully absorb all that calcium. On the contrary, in children with poor calcium absorption capacity, in addition to not absorbing calcium, their bodies also eliminate calcium quickly. Research shows that the above syndrome comes from some main causes, like improper diets, children suffering from enzyme deficiency or illnesses, etc.

Improper diets

Many parents' habits of feeding salty foods, fast food, bitter and acrid fruit, and carbonated soft drinks to their children cause difficulty in calcium absorption. At the same time, if children eat plenty of foods containing phytic acid, cellulose, phosphorus, and protein, calcium from the gastrointestinal tract will not be absorbed into the blood, thereby increasing calcium excretion.

Improper diets easily cause poor calcium absorption syndrome.

Improper diets easily cause poor calcium absorption syndrome.

Enzyme deficiency

Enzymes an extremely important catalysts to help the digestion and the absorption of nutrients take place more easily and more quickly. Therefore, enzyme deficiency is also considered one of the reasons why children cannot tolerate all nutrients from foods, including calcium.


Children who are suffering from kidney diseases and gastrointestinal diseases, such as food allergies, intestinal inflammation, and intestinal infections, will also have difficulty in calcium absorption, resulting in calcium deficiency. Moreover, there are many other reasons for poor calcium absorption syndrome in children, like Vitamin D deficiency, intestinal parasitic infections, environmental pollution, etc.

Taking calcium to deal with poor calcium absorption

Calcium is known as the main building block of your growing bones. Keeping a suitable intake of calcium can increase calcium concentration and bone mineral density. According to many experts, taking calcium is necessary for those who absorb calcium poorly. To avoid calcium deficiency, adults and children can use calcium supplements. Thanks to its super micro size, calcium possesses an extremely good solubility. This substance is capable of rapidly penetrating the intestinal membrane and thus it can be maximally absorbed into the blood.

Calcium-rich foods

  • Traditional dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are renowned for their calcium content. They are not only rich in calcium but also offer a spectrum of essential nutrients, including protein and vitamin D.

  • Vegetables, like kale, collard greens, and spinach, are prized for their calcium concentration. These greens are a fantastic addition to salads, smoothies, or sautéed dishes.

  • Non-dairy milk alternatives, such as almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk, are often fortified with calcium to rival their dairy counterparts. Always check labels to ensure adequate fortification.

  • Firm tofu is the preferred choice for higher calcium content.

  • Seafood enthusiasts can turn to sardines and canned salmon, complete with edible bones, as an excellent calcium source.

  • Beans and lentils are not only fiber-rich but also offer moderate levels of calcium. They make for hearty additions to soups, stews, and salads.

  • Almonds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds boast impressive calcium content. They are perfect for snacking or enhancing the texture and nutrition of various dishes.

  • Dried figs stand out among fruits as a calcium-rich option. They make for a sweet and nutritious snack.

  • This cruciferous vegetable is not just a vitamin C powerhouse; it also provides a notable amount of calcium.

Fortified foods to increase calcium intake

Many food products are intentionally fortified with calcium to provide a convenient way to boost your dietary calcium levels. Among these fortified items, orange juice and cereals stand out:

  • Calcium-fortified orange juice offers a refreshing and nutritious option for obtaining calcium. It's a favored choice for breakfast or as a hydrating beverage throughout the day.

  • Breakfast cereals, including both hot and cold varieties, are often fortified with calcium. Starting your day with a calcium-rich cereal can be a proactive step toward meeting your daily calcium needs.

Calcium supplements

Calcium supplements come in various forms, including calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. The choice of supplement depends on individual preferences and considerations, such as calcium content and ease of absorption. 

Determining the right calcium dosage and timing is crucial. Recommended daily intake varies by age and gender. Calcium supplements are typically taken with meals to enhance absorption.

In conclusion,

Addressing stunted growth and poor calcium absorption is not just a medical mission; it's a collective responsibility. It's about empowering parents, caregivers, and communities with knowledge and options. It's about encouraging a proactive approach to promoting healthy growth in our future generations. Together, we can navigate these challenges and pave the way for a brighter, taller, and healthier future for our children.


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