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Improvement of bone health in childhood and adolescence

  • Zhu Kun (a1), Heather Greenfield (a1), Du Xueqin (a1) and David R. Fraser (a2)

Abstract

Osteoporosis as a worldwide problem is discussed in the present review and the question of improving peak bone mass to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fracture is addressed. The available evidence points to pre-puberty and puberty as the most opportune periods for intervention, but the potential for achievable increments in bone mass is shown to be small compared with the overwhelming influence of heredity, body composition and hormonal factors on bone. Lean body mass appears to be positively correlated with bone mass, while black–white racial differences in bone mass appear to be related to greater lean mass and lower bone turnover rate in blacks. Within races, twin and parent–offspring models have suggested that 46–80 % of the variance in bone mineral density can be explained by inherited factors; however, the mechanism of the genetic influence on bone density remains poorly understood. Moderate regular exercise seems to maintain bone mass while more vigorous regular exercise increases it in children and young adults. Ca intake has been found to be positively associated with bone mass in many but not all studies, possibly because of a ceiling at about 1300–1500 mg/d for young people. Other nutritional variables, including vitamin D, have been little investigated in relation to childhood and adolescent bone mass. The influence of milk as a source of highly bioavailable Ca and other nutrients has also been less frequently investigated, which is of concern given the cessation of school milk programmes in Western countries over the last three decades. Intervention studies to improve bone health in young people have mainly been based on Ca milk or exercise. The evidence points to the benefits to bone of such interventions, particularly when commenced pre-puberty, and it seems that daily consumption of 200–300 ml milk/d by children and adolescents has no adverse side effects. The benefits to bone are almost universally shown to be lost fairly rapidly after Ca or exercise intervention ceases; there is therefore no justification in terms of bone health for short-term interventions of this nature. The question of withdrawal of milk supplementation has undergone very little examination. Further, very little evidence is available on the effects of long-term interventions of any sort on bone health. Nevertheless, the data obtained so far permit the suggestion that promotion of Ca intake (e.g. at the higher level of current recommendations) and exercise commencing in the pre-pubertal period should be adopted as policy now.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Ms Zhu Kun, fax +61 2 9351 3957, email kathyz@vetsci.usyd.edu.au

References

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Keywords

Improvement of bone health in childhood and adolescence

  • Zhu Kun (a1), Heather Greenfield (a1), Du Xueqin (a1) and David R. Fraser (a2)

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