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What is Bone?

A question always asked at my calcium related programs for middle elementary grades is: How many bones does an adult body have? I get various answers but the correct one is 206. Bones serve various paramount functions in our body including: provide support to our skeletal system; stores minerals and lipids especially calcium; produce blood cells which are produced in the red marrow, which fills the internal cavities of many bones; protects body organs such as the rib cage which protects the heat and lungs; and, provides leverage and movement for our body. Our skeletal system is structural support for the entire body. Individual bones or groups of bones provide a framework for the attachment of soft tissues and organs.

Our bones are constantly being made and broken down. We tend to make new bones faster when we are younger since our bone mass increases till late 20’s. Bone is a living, growing tissue consisting of mostly collagen and calcium phosphate.  This combination is what makes our bones strong and resilient since the calcium mineral adds strength and the collagen provides the soft framework. This is why it is emphasized when we are younger to consume calcium related products such as dairy and leafy green vegetables. More than 99 percent of the body’s calcium is used in our bones and teeth.

Bones begin to form in the fetus about six weeks after fertilization and parts of our skeleton does not stop growing until a person is in their mid 20’s. Approximately twenty percent of the adult skeleton is replaced each year. A good way to stimulate bone maintenance and maintain good bone health and strength is moderate amounts of physical activity and weight bearing activities. ‘Move it’ or ‘lose it’ is a common adage for maintaining bone health.

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