New study suggests link between childhood obesity and poor bone health

Research has shown that overweight children who do not receive enough exercise may be at high risk for type 2 diabetes. However, a study recently published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research suggests that these children may also be at risk for osteoporosis.

Scientists from the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) studied 140 overweight children between ages seven and 11 who got little regular exercise. They found that 30 percent of study participants with signs of poor blood sugar regulation also had 4-to-5 percent less bone mass, according to Dr Norman Pollock, bone biologist at MCG's Georgia Prevention Institute.

In this study, higher amounts of visceral fat - a type of fat found in the abdominal area that is linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease - were associated with lower bone mass while more body fat overall was associated with higher bone mass.

"While overweight children may have more bone mass than normal-weight kids, it may not be big or strong enough to compensate for their larger size," Pollock wrote.

Coauthor of the study, Dr Catherine Davis, notes that regular physical activity could reduce children's body fat and diabetes risk, as well as improve overall bone health.

"Our greatest window of opportunity to enhance bone strength and ultimately reduce the risk of osteoporosis is during childhood, before the capacity to build bone diminishes," Pollock wrote.