Osteoporosis is a major cause of illness and death in the elderly due to age-related fractures. Reducing the frequency and severity of these fractures by slowing age-related bone loss has been a major focus.

In the quest to understand what may be contributing factors to the risk of osteoporosis, several new studies have found interesting results, which are pointing to the role of birth weight. Researchers report that low birth weight babies are at higher risk of osteoporosis later in life, especially if they’re one of the approximately 10% of babies born prematurely worldwide.

When babies are born preterm, there is an interruption in the transfer of calcium from the mother to the baby, which would normally occur during the last few weeks of pregnancy. This interruption results in lower peak bone mass.

Peak bone mass is achieved between 20 and 30 years of age and is an indicator of fracture risk and future osteoporosis. Similarly, it was found that adults who had low birth weight, but were born full-term also had lower bone mass than babies with normal weights. Later risk of hip fracture has been directly linked to both low birth size and poor childhood growth.

Birth weight may play a key role, but other factors have also been found to influence the accumulation of bone mineral during childhood and adolescence. Some of these factors include heredity, gender, diet and physical activity. Additionally, insufficient vitamin D during pregnancy and cigarette smoking are each associated with reduced bone mineral acquisition for babies.

Hopefully these studies will help in forming good preventative strategies by optimizing nutrition during pregnancy and providing higher risk children with the appropriate diet and exercise. To reduce the risk of bone fractures later in life, a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and protein, in combination with exercise that involves weight-bearing physical activities may help children with low birth weights.

If you would like to find out more information about osteoporosis, screenings, or treatments, please call or visit Spine & Orthopedic Center today.