Late Teen Years Found to be Key Period for Bone Growth

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11 Jul 2017 --- Scientists analyzing a large, racially diverse sample have found that the late adolescent years are an important period for gaining bone mineral, even after a teenager attains their adult height. According to the researchers, the findings reinforce the importance of diet and physical activities during the late teen years, as a foundation for lifelong health.

“We often think of a child's growth largely with respect to height, but overall bone development is also important,” says lead author Shana E. McCormack, MD, a pediatric researcher at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “This study shows that roughly ten percent of bone mass continues to accumulate after a teenager reaches his or her adult height.”

The research team, from CHOP and colleagues in Ohio, Nebraska, New York, California and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), published their study in JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers drew on data from the Bone Mineral Density in Childhood Study (BMDCS), funded by the NIH. That study included sophisticated bone and growth measurements during annual visits for up to seven years in over 2000 healthy children, adolescents and young during 2002 to 2010.

The principal investigator of the BMDCS at CHOP, Babette S. Zemel, points out that the current study shows that bone growth is site-specific, with bone mineral density developing at different rates in different parts of the skeleton.

“We also showed that growth events peak earlier in African-American adolescents than in non-African-American adolescents. When healthcare providers interpret data such as bone density in their patients, they should take into account these patterns in growth trajectories,” Zemel says.

The study reported that height growth far outpaces gains in bone mineral before adolescence, which may explain the high fracture rates among children and adolescents. Approximately 30 to 50 percent of children will experience at least one fracture before adulthood. The “lag” in bone mineral accrual is compensated for after height growth is complete.

The authors conclude that late adolescence offers clinicians a window of opportunity to intervene with their patients. 

“Late adolescence is when some teenagers adopt risky behaviors, such as smoking and alcohol use, worse dietary choices and decreased physical activity, all of which can impair bone development,” says McCormack. “This period is a time for parents and caregivers to encourage healthier behaviors, such as better diets and more physical activity.” 

“We've known for a long time that maximizing bone health in childhood and adolescence protects people from osteoporosis later in life,” says Zemel. “This study reinforces that understanding, and suggests that late adolescence may be an underrecognized period to intervene in this important area of public health.”

In related news, a study abstract presented last month at the International Conference on Children’s Bone Health in Würzburg, Germany, highlighted the increased risk of fracture in children with low vitamin K2 status

Currently, manganese, protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D are the predominant ingredients associated with bone health claims. Innova Market Insights has recorded a 36 percent increase in global product launch activity with a bone and/or joint health positioning in 2016 from 2015. While new product development for bone and joint health benefits occurs mainly in the dairy category, there is growing evidence of ingredient applications and claims made for products beyond the dairy aisle.

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