U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Date of this Version



Published in Horm Res 2003;60(suppl 3):71–76 DOI: 10.1159/000074505


The natural patterns of bone mass accumulation and loss with age represent the templates of individual life cycle periods that are distinguished by marked, physiologically and genetically identifiable, changes in bone mass. During the third trimester of pregnancy, maternal calcium absorption increases and the fetus accumulates about two-thirds of the total bone mass of the term infant. In early infancy, human milk calcium is derived primarily from maternal bone stores, which incur substantial bone losses that are quickly replenished during and after weaning. At puberty, a marked increase in bone mass occurs in conjunction with the initial physical and hormonal changes that characterize this stage. Calcium absorption and bone calcium deposition rates peak in females shortly before menarche. At that time, the bone calcium deposition rate is approximately five times that of adulthood. Skeletal bone mass reaches over 90% of its maximum by age 18 (earlier in females) but does not peak until age 25–30. At some point in mid-life, women experience perimenopause, the 3- to 5-year period prior to menopause during which estrogen levels begin to drop and there are marked increases in bone resorption and loss. Throughout adulthood, calcium absorption efficiency from the diet gradually declines.