Researchers discover age of onset of puberty predicts adult osteoporosis risk

January 28, 2011

A team of researchers led by Vicente Gilsanz, MD, PhD, director of Clinical Imaging at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, determined that the onset of puberty was the primary influence on adult bone mineral density, or bone strength. Length of puberty did not affect bone density.

Reduced bone mineral density leads to , resulting in bones becoming increasingly brittle and at risk for fracture. Osteoporosis is a significant public health issue with the cost of treatment in 2010 estimated at $10 billion. This condition affects 55% of Americans aged 50 and older.

The Bone Mineral Density in Childhood Study is an ongoing multicenter study examining bone development in healthy children and teenagers of both sexes and ethnic groups in the United States. For this analysis, the investigators studied 78 girls and 84 boys who had just entered puberty, until they reached .

"Puberty has a significant role in ," explained Dr. Gilsanz. "During this time, bones lengthen and increase in density. At the end of puberty the epiphyseal plates close, terminating the ability of the bones to lengthen. When this occurs, the teenager has reached their maximum adult height and peak bone mass. We found that early puberty was associated with greater bone mass while later puberty resulted in less."

Adolescents with short stature sometimes undergo medical intervention to delay puberty in an effort to achieve greater height. This study indicates that prolonging the growth period by delaying puberty may have unexpected consequences in later life.

The 2000 National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference on Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis, and Therapy identified bone mineral deposition during adolescence as a critical determinant of osteoporosis risk later in life. The care of patients with osteoporosis is difficult, and most therapies increase bone density by small amounts yet requires long periods of treatment. In contrast, during puberty large increases in bone density occur over a short period of time.

Given that the rate of decline of bone mass in adulthood is approximately 1% to 2% each year, a 10% to 20% increase in bone density resulting from a natural early puberty corresponds to an additional 10 to 20 years of protection against the normal age-related decline in bone strength.

Explore further: Jumping for joy... and stronger bones

More information: The article was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Related Stories

Jumping for joy... and stronger bones

August 28, 2008

High impact activities such as jumping and skipping that can easily be incorporated into warm-ups before sports and physical education classes, have been shown to benefit bone health in adolescents.

Taking a break from osteoporosis drugs can protect bones

November 18, 2010

Taking time off from certain osteoporosis drugs may be beneficial to bone health, according to a study conducted at Loyola University Health System. Researchers found that bone density remained stable for three years in patients ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.