Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Concern for Bone Health in Today's Children

The Associated Press is reporting today about the increased concern that doctors and healthcare organizations have for the bone health of children. It seems that today's child drinks more soda than milk, and gets a lot less sunshine and exercise than children of the past. Shockingly, it's leading to rickets, the soft-bone problem of the 19th century.

It appears that millions of otherwise healthy kids aren't building the strong bones that they should be building, and even if they are not affected today (as some are, with rickets) they may grow to be adults with bone problems later in life. It certainly doesn't look like we're going to be eliminating osteoporosis any time soon if this continues.

Dr. Laura Tosi, bone health chief at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, described it in an AP interview as "a potential time bomb."

Already there's evidence that U.S. children break their arms more often today than four decades ago — girls 56 percent more, and boys 32 percent more (according to a Mayo Clinic study).

Almost half of peak bone mass develops during adolescence, and the concern is that missing out on the strongest possible bones in childhood could really bring on the bone-related trouble decades later. By the 30s, bone is broken down faster than it's rebuilt; this means that from then on, it's a race to maintain bone and avoid osteoporosis in old age.

"There's some early data showing that even a 10 percent deficit in your bone mass when you finish your adolescent years can increase your potential risk of having osteoporosis and fractures as much as 50 percent," says Dr. James Beaty, president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The problem isn't that kids don't drink fortified milk as much today. Our bodies make vitamin D with sunlight, and with teen computer use it's no wonder D levels are low. Plus, no child gets the exercise of a child from 50 years ago.

Rickets marks the worst deficiency, where bones become so soft that legs literally bow. Rickets was once thought to have been eradicated with milk fortification, but now doctors see this bone issue on a regular basis.


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