Osteoporosis is generally considered a condition that affects women during and after menopause but now it seems there is another group who could also be at risk. We know that one of the risk factors for diabetes in childhood is being overweight and a recent study of 140 overweight children age 7-11 who got little regular exercise has found that the 30 percent with signs of poor blood sugar regulation had 4-5 percent less bone mass.
Now bone mass is a measure of bone strength and Dr. Norman Pollock, bone biologist at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute, has confirmed that this study is the first to suggest the association between weaker bones and type 2 diabetes risk in children.
Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes in adults and sadly it is now becoming more common in children as it is often associated with being overweight and taking little exercise. The study has just been published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research and according to. Dr. Pollock “while overweight children may have more bone mass than normal-weight kids, it may not be big, or strong enough, to compensate for their larger size.”
Though of course it is not the case that everyone who is overweight has weak bones, Dr. Pollock feels it may have more to do with how fat is distributed throughout the body. For instance pre-diabetics tend to have more fat around their abdominal area, specifically visceral fat, a type of fat deep in the belly that is linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In this study, higher amounts of visceral fat were associated with lower bone mass while more body fat overall was associated with higher bone mass. “Taken together, it seems that excessive abdominal fat may play a key role linking pre-diabetes to lower bone mass,” Pollock said.
The good news is that children — or more accurately their parents — have time to fix this problem which can have the potential for lifelong health consequences. Two of the simplest solutions are to engage children in regular exercise that can be maintained because they enjoy it and will continue it into adulthood and to pay real attention to their diet.
If parents truly want to enhance bone strength and ultimately reduce the risk of osteoporosis during childhood, then these two simple measures will not only improve their health but research has shown it can also improve their ability to learn.