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New York / Heidelberg, 2 February 2012

Research shows early bone growth linked to bone density in later life

Findings suggest nutrition in childhood is an important determinant of adult bone health and in the prevention of bone disease like osteoporosis

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Researchers from the University of Southampton, in collaboration with a research group in Delhi, India, have shown that growth in early childhood can affect bone density in adult life. The study, led by Professor Caroline Fall, was published online in the Springer journal Osteoporosis International.
The study related measurements of bone mass and density at the lumbar spine, femoral neck and forearm to birth size and childhood weight and height growth among 565 men and women from the New Delhi Birth Cohort.
The results showed that size at birth and height growth during early childhood contribute significantly to adult bone mass, while body mass index in later childhood was positively related to adult bone density. These findings suggest that nutrition in childhood is an important determinant of adult bone health and in the prevention of developing bone disease like osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis causes some of the struts within the bone to become thin, making it more fragile and prone to break even after a minor bump or fall. One in two women and one in five persons over the age of 50 will break a bone mainly because of osteoporosis.
Professor Fall said, “The risk of osteoporotic fracture depends on two factors: the mechanical strength of bone and the forces applied to it. We know that bone mass is an established determinant of bone strength and adult bone mass depends upon the peak attained during skeletal growth and the subsequent rate of bone loss. Peak bone mass is partly inherited, but environmental and lifestyle factors do play a part, too. If we can improve childhood nutrition and that of the mother while pregnant, the risk of bone disease in later life can be reduced.”
Professor Cyrus Cooper, from the University of Southampton and co-author, added: "This study emphasizes the huge benefits of studying cohorts in both developed and developing populations, which permit the opportunity to explore the early origins of common chronic disorders such as osteoporosis."
Reference
Fall CHD et al (2012). Growth from birth to adulthood and peak bone mass and density data from the New Delhi Birth Cohort. Osteoporosis International. DOI 10.1007/s00198-011-1857-x
The full-text article is available to journalists on request.

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