Study shows how pediatricians can help patients prevent osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease of the skeletal system, characterized by low bone mass that often leads to an increased risk of bone fractures throughout adulthood. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that by 2020, an estimated half of Americans who are over the age of 50 will be at risk for osteoporotic fractures, making the condition a major cause of worldwide hardship and an economic burden.

The study, published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that pediatricians can play a major role in enhancing bone health for their patients in later years.

Osteoporosis determined by childhood bone development
Researchers from the AAP had previously believed that osteoporosis was simply a symptom of aging. However, the study has confirmed that bone development during childhood has a major impact on the risk of the condition down the road. Preventative measures should be taken during these early stages. 

According to the study by the AAP, bone mineral deposition begins during pregnancy. Bone mineral content rises 40-fold in the time between birth and adulthood, while from ages 10 to 20 peak bone mass occurs.

Although approximately 70 percent of the quality of one's bone mass stems from genetic factors, the researchers found that the consumption of vitamin D, carbonated drinks, calcium, sodium, protein and sodium also plays a small role. Aside from nutrition, the quality of one's lifestyle, a healthy body, hormonal status and exercise also affect bone health.

Researchers also discovered that higher bone mineral content and reduced risk of bone fracture as a symptom of aging are closely linked to the amount of milk consumed in the early years of life. This is particularly important, as 99 percent of the body's total calcium content is in the skeleton.

How pediatricians can help patients reduce their risk of osteoporosis
The AAP researchers examined bone acquisition in all early stages of life, including infancy, childhood and adolescence. This was done to supply pediatricians with bone health strategies for their patients. 

For babies, the study showed that the primary source of nutrition should be human milk or infant formula if human milk is not possible. After the first year of life, the main source of dietary calcium then switches to milk and other dairy products, which account for 70 to 80 percent of nutritional calcium intake.

The final conclusion of the study found that attaining substantial bone mass early in life is considered to be "the most important modifiable determinant of lifelong skeletal health." This makes orthopedic care by pediatricians of the utmost importance.

The AAP suggested that pediatricians start doing screenings that focus on children and adolescents experiencing frequent bone fractures or who have medical conditions that are associated with low bone mineral density. However, the group advised caution when examining children and adolescents who have yet to reach their peak bone mass, as results should be interpreted differently. Researchers also stressed that pediatricians should begin to ask their patients about the exercise they are receiving and that they should frequently recommend physical activities, such as walking, running and dancing, as these enhance bone strength.