Children at risk for type 2 diabetes may be more likely to develop osteoporosis

Children who develop risk factors for type 2 diabetes before hitting puberty may also be more likely to have weak bones in adulthood, according to a new study from Medical College of Georgia researchers.

As the obesity epidemic extends to children, a growing number of adolescents are developing type 2 diabetes or risk factors for the condition. It is well established that encountering these complications at this early stage of life significantly increases the of suffering from heart disease and other chronic conditions. However, the new study is among the first to show a connection to weak bones.

For the study, which was published in Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, investigators examined 140 overweight children between the ages of 7 and 11. They measured the participants' body fat percentage, blood sugar levels and bone density and asked questions about how much physical activity they got on a regular basis.

The researchers found a strong association between risk factors for type 2 diabetes and poor bone health. A total of 30 percent of the participants showed signs of poor blood sugar regulation. These children had an average of 4 to 5 percent less bone density than participants with healthy blood sugar regulation.

Given the fact that a large percent of an individual's lifetime bone density is developed before reaching puberty, the researchers said that their findings depict a major problem.

"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," said Norman Pollack, who headed the investigation. "This finding provides the first clue linking childhood obesity to skeletal fractures."