Early puberty may delay onset of osteoporosis, researchers find

Puberty and age-related osteoporosis may be more closely related than previously thought. A study conducted at the Los Angeles Children's Hospital's Saban Research Institute has determined that early onset of puberty may delay the formation of osteoporosis later in life.

Results published in the Journal of Pediatrics indicate that children who naturally go through puberty earlier have a higher bone density than their peers. The study also determined that the length of puberty does not affect the density of bones.

These findings may have an impact on the efficiency with which physicians diagnose bone loss. Currently, an estimated 34 million Americans are at risk for osteoporosis, the National Osteoporosis Foundation states.

Researchers assessed adolescent bone health by using dual x-ray absorptiometry scans to determine bone density at the onset of puberty and at its end. At the beginning of the study, all participants were teens and pre-teens who had just entered puberty.

The team linked an earlier onset of puberty with greater relative bone mass. The opposite was also found to be true, as "late bloomers" - teens who went through puberty later than their peers - tended to end their growth spurt with a lower bone mass.

Though a person's bone mass is the highest it will ever be immediately after puberty, pubescent growth is not the only factor that affects bone mineral density.

Age, race, gender, hormones, lifestyle and nutrition all effect one's bone health, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

While consuming adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D may reduce one's risk of developing osteoporosis, other factors - like puberty - are largely beyond individual control.

The team concluded that since humans tend to lose approximately 1 percent of their bone density every year, even a modest increase in bone mass caused by early puberty may delay osteoporosis by 10 or 20 years.
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