Diet important for children's bones
Press release issued: 25 June 2003
The foods our children eat in early life affects the health of their skeleton in later childhood, according to research revealed at the Ninth Bath Conference on Osteoporosis.
Preliminary research from Bristol University's Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) has demonstrated a relationship between the amount of energy consumed in the diet by 18-month-old children and how much their skeleton has grown by the age of nine.
Dr Jonathan Tobias, of the Rheumatology Unit at the University of Bristol, is presenting his team's research at the internationally renowned conference. Their findings help to shed more scientific light on the importance of healthy eating from birth.
"This is preliminary research from a unique cohort of children so it's very early days.Our initial findings show that there is an association between energy intake from foods eaten at 18 months and the density of the child's skeleton at age nine," said Dr Tobias.
"Why that should be needs further investigation. It may be that children with 'bigger bones' just eat more. Is it because they are hungrier or is there a genetic influence? There are lots of questions to be asked and following this group of children from before birth as they grow up will help us to find the answers."
The study examined diet records kept by the parents of 757 children, randomly drawn from the ALSPAC study. This study, also known as 'Children of the 90s', is one of the biggest long-term studies of children in the world and is tracking 14,000 youngsters 'recruited' when their mothers were pregnant.
A total of 7,500 of the children have now had their first bone density scan - at the age of about nine - enabling the researchers to compare their diet at 18-months to the state of their skeleton as they reach the end of their first decade.
By 18 months, children are generally eating the same food as their parents. Childhood, adolescence and early adulthood are the peak times for 'banking' bone - so these are the time for building the maximum amount of strength into our skeleton before the inevitable bone loss which occurs later in life.
This research helps to highlight the importance of what children eat from the beginning.
The Bath Conference on Osteoporosis is now established as the leading UK conference for scientists and clinicians interested in this bone disease. Its scientific programme has an excellent international reputation attracting delegates and speakers from 25 countries throughout the world.
The Ninth Bath Conference on Osteoporosis is taking place from Wednesday June 23 to 26, 2003, at the Assembly Rooms, Bath.