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Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 01:47 GMT
Poor growth raises fracture risk
Osteoporosis causes bone density loss
People who had poor height gain in childhood have a greater risk of breaking their hip in adult life, researchers have found.

The study was carried out by scientists at the Medical Research Council's Environmental Epidemiology Unit led by Professor Cyrus Cooper.

It seems likely that environmental influences which modify childhood growth are responsible

Professor Cyrus Cooper
The team studied hospital records of more than 7,000 people born in Helsinki, Finland between 1924 and 1933.

They recorded size at birth, growth and living conditions in childhood and hospital admissions in adulthood.

Professor Cooper found that people whose rate of childhood height gain fell into the bottom quarter of all children were more likely to suffer a hip fracture.

The research focused on the years between seven and 15.

Hard evidence

He said: "This is the first time that researchers have had hard evidence that low childhood growth rates are linked to hip fractures in adult life.

"It seems likely that environmental influences which modify childhood growth are responsible.

"Such influences could include a mother who smoked in pregnancy or who had a poor diet, exposure to infections during infancy and early childhood or low calcium intake and lack of physical activity in later childhood."

"Also if the mother is stressed during pregnancy, the baby may reset its endocrine systems to divert energy to survival rather than growth."

The research team also found that hip fracture was 2.1 times more likely in children born to mothers taller than 1.6m (5 ft 4 in) than in children whose mothers were shorter than 1.5m (4 ft 11 in).

This finding suggests that hip fractures might arise from a mismatch between the genetic drive for bone growth and the environmental influences which affect the mineralisation of bones during childhood.

A spokesperson from the National Osteoporosis Society said: "The NOS welcomes this very interesting research and would like to see if it's replicated in any other studies that are done of a similar nature.

"The findings clearly support the need to implement public health strategies to prevent osteoporosis in future generations by promoting healthy nourishment and lifestyle for pregnant women, children and right through life."

The research is published in the journal Osteoporosis International.

See also:

24 Aug 99 | Medical notes
01 Feb 01 | Health
Cutting the risk of fractures
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