It is known that bone quality is largely preserved since the early decades of life and is modulated by interactions between genes and the environment. It is also recognized that weight and height are fundamental to bone properties from pediatric ages.
However, “it was unclear if there would be any sensitive period during growth that was particularly important for bone quality in childhood, specifically at seven years of age”, says Teresa Monjardino, the first author of the study, coordinated by the researcher Raquel Lucas.
To carry out the analysis, the researchers used data from about 1,900 children of the Generation XXI cohort – a longitudinal study that follows, since 2005, 8600 participants who were born in public maternity hospitals in the Metropolitan Area of Porto.
The researchers obtained child growth and development (weight, length/height) measurements from birth abstracted from the National Health Service official children’s health book. They also obtained information on bone quality of the children at seven years of age through the dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) test, performed at the time of the seven-year evaluation of the cohort participants. Then, they compared growth in weight and length/height of the children with the quality of their bone.
We found that growth between one and three years is particularly important for bone quality in children aged seven. According to Teresa Monjardino, this can be explained by the fact that “at these ages children begin to adopt a vertical posture and start to walk. There is a gravitational change. The muscles begin to have another type of movement that is very relevant for bone formation”.
Although all periods of growth are important for the bone, this one in particular has proved to be more relevant, so “it is important for parents to be aware of any change in growth at this point that is caused, for example, by some disease, and may affect bone quality later“, the researcher says.
With this in mind, it is advisable to “keep normal follow-up of the children by the family doctor so that changes can be detected that affect the child’s expected growth. It is important not to miss these follow-ups”, she concludes.
The article, developed within the scope of the Epidemiology Research Unit (EPIUnit) of ISPUP, is called Early childhood as a sensitive period for the effect of growth on childhood bone mass: Evidence from Generation XXI birth cohort. The researchers Joana Amaro, Maria João Fonseca, Teresa Rodrigues and Ana Cristina Santos also participated in the study.
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