New research from the University of Southampton gives an insight into the development of healthy bones and underscores the importance of active play for young children.
Scientists found that higher muscle mass is strongly linked with healthier bone development in children aged six to seven years. No relationship was seen between fat mass and bone development, indicating that fat is not an important factor in childhood skeletal strength.
“Bone strength and size is important because they are significant factors in long-term osteoporosis and fracture risk,” explained Dr. Rebecca Moon, lead investigator of the study. “A 10% increase in peak bone mass will delay the onset of osteoporosis by 13 years. These findings point to the importance of early childhood physical activity to optimise muscle and bone growth.”
The researchers examined data from detailed measurements of 200 children, taken as part of the Southampton Women´s Survey. The boys and girls were measured soon after birth and then again at six to seven years old. High-tech scanning equipment was used to assess bone mineral density, shape and size of the tibia, and body composition.
As well as the link between the amount of lean muscle and healthy bone development, the team found that the muscle-bone correlation was stronger in girls than in boys, despite the ages of the children ruling out the onset of puberty as a factor.
“This is a wonderful example of a biomedical discovery made by combining state of the art imaging methodologies with the world-leading population science for which Southampton has an established international reputation,” commented study co-author Professor Cyrus Cooper, director of the university´s Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit.
The findings have been published in the journal Bone.