Does Calcium Increase Height After Age 20?

Does Calcium Increase Height After Age 20?

Many people wish to grow taller, even after reaching adulthood. This leads to questions about whether increasing calcium intake through supplementation can help increase height after age 20 when growth plates close. While calcium is crucial for bone development, there are limitations to what calcium supplements can achieve in terms of vertical growth after maturity. Let's analyze the science behind calcium's role in bone health, the factors that determine height, and realistic expectations for supplements to increase stature after reaching adult height.

Bone Development and Calcium

  1. Calcium plays a key role in bone development as it is the most abundant mineral in bone tissue.
  2. During childhood and adolescence, adequate calcium allows for maximum growth of bones in length and density to achieve peak bone mass.
  3. Around ages 18-20, the epiphyseal plates or growth plates at the ends of long bones fuse together as skeletal maturity is reached. This stops bones from continuing to grow longer.
  4. After the growth plates ossify, calcium absorption remains important for maintaining and strengthening bones. But it no longer contributes to vertical growth.
  5. Once adult height is attained, the main factors affecting further growth involve genetics and hormones, not nutritional intake.

Factors That Determine Height

Height is a complex polygenic trait influenced by multiple genes as well as environmental conditions:

  • Research estimates 60-80% of variation in adult height is attributable to genetic factors.
  • The number of height-related genes you inherit from parents plays a large role in ultimate height potential.
  • Proper nutrition, especially adequate calcium, vitamin D and protein during childhood and adolescence allows for optimal bone growth.
  • Malnourishment can lead to stunted growth if nutritional deficiencies impede bone development.
  • Estrogen hormones signal growth plate closure. Lack of estrogen delays puberty and closure of growth plates.
  • Growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) increase bone elongation and growth velocity before growth plates fuse.
  • Testosterone levels also partially regulate growth and the timing of growth plate closure.
Environmental Factors
  • Secondhand smoke exposure, certain medications or radiation treatment early in life may slightly reduce final height by impacting growth plates.
  • Some childhood diseases can impair nutrient absorption needed for growth. Chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease are associated with mild growth retardation.

Why Calcium Alone Won’t Increase Adult Height

After growth plates fuse and puberty ends, calcium supplementation alone is not medically recognized as a safe or effective means of continuing height increase for these main reasons:
Growth Plate Closure
  • Growth potential relies on open epiphyseal plates at the ends of bones which allow for new bone formation and elongation.
  • Once growth plates ossify, no additional lengthening of bones occurs regardless of nutrient intake.
Maturation of Hormone Levels
  • In childhood, GH, IGF-1 and sex hormones promote growth. Levels decline at the end of puberty resulting in halted vertical development.
  • Increasing calcium intake does not reverse age-related hormone changes or reactivate growth signaling.
Genetic Height Potential
  • Genetics accounts for the majority of height variation between individuals. Calcium alone cannot overcome inborn height limitations.
  • Exceptionally tall stature often indicates an abnormality like gigantism, usually caused by tumor or excess HGH production.
Lack of Clinical Evidence
  • There are no reputable clinical trials showing calcium supplementation alone meaningfully increases height after growth plates close in healthy adults.

Is Vertical Growth Ever Possible After Puberty?

While very rare, some legitimate medical treatments can increase adult height minimally by up to 2-5cm in unique circumstances:

Limb Lengthening Surgery
  • Involves surgically breaking the bones in legs or arms then gradually separating them over months as new bone growth fills the gap.
  • Lengthening procedures are only indicated for severe limb length disproportion or deformities.
  • The process involves intensive physical therapy and risks of complications like infections and nerve damage.
Growth Hormone Treatment
  • Synthetic HGH injections may be prescribed for diagnosed growth hormone deficiency causing abnormally short stature.
  • Must be initiated before growth plates close to increase height. Benefits diminish after late teens.
  • Strict medical eligibility criteria due to health risks associated with synthetic HGH.
These medical treatments involve substantial cost and risks. They are not recommended solely for cosmetic increase in stature in otherwise healthy individuals after puberty has completed.

Healthy Practices for Bone Strength

While not proven to increase height after maturity, certain healthy habits provide lifelong bone strengthening benefits:
  • Consume the recommended daily amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Engage in regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise.
  • Follow an overall balanced, nutritious diet with fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
  • Avoid smoking and excess alcohol intake which deplete bone mineral density.
  • Monitor for nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances or medications impacting bone health.
These practices help optimize peak bone mass during development and prevent excessive bone loss as we age.

Potential Risks of Calcium Over-Supplementation

While sufficient calcium intake is vital, excessive supplementation carries some potential downsides:
  • Hypercalcemia - Abnormally elevated calcium levels in the blood which can impair kidney function.
  • Interference with iron, zinc and magnesium absorption.
  • Increased risk of kidney stones.
  • Potential increased risk of heart disease according to some studies.
Taking more than the recommended daily upper limit of calcium via supplements may do more harm than good. Always consult your doctor regarding appropriate calcium intake for your individual needs.

Once maximum adult height has been attained, vertical growth regrettably comes to an end as growth plates fuse at the end of puberty. While calcium is essential for bone development through adolescence, increased calcium intake from supplements alone cannot increase height after maturity. Height beyond genetic potential is very challenging to achieve, and only possible through rare legitimate medical procedures in unique circumstances. For those wishing to stand taller, the healthiest approach is coming to terms with one’s height and focusing efforts on self-acceptance, confidence, and positive posture. These mindset shifts can help you make peace with your stature.