Osteoporosis connection

By Ipsita Sarkar

Timing of puberty can affect bone density

Children who attain puberty early may have less chances of getting osteoporosis later in life. This information may help Indians take precautionary steps, as one in every three women here above 45 years has osteoporosis, a survey conducted by the Arthritis Foundation of India states.

Statistics with the International Osteoporosis Foundation shows that one in every eight men and one in every three women in India suffer from osteoporosis. Influenced by genetic and environmental factors, osteoporosis is caused due to decrease in bone density and thinning of the bone tissue.

“Increased osteoporosis cases in India may be on account of deficiency of calcium and Vitamin D, poor nutrition, less exposure to sports, high incidences of diabetes and not reaching the peak bone mass at the age of 25,” says Sushil Sharma, chairperson of the Arthiritis Foundation of India.

In the US, the average age for puberty is around 11 years. A study conducted by the Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, found that healthy girls who started puberty a year earlier had about 5 per cent greater bone mineral content and 2.5 per cent greater bone mineral density at skeletal maturity. Similar findings were reported in healthy boys.

In human beings, bones reach their maximum strength and size at about 20 years. The first period of rapid bone growth is from birth to two years. The second period is in the years of puberty, when the speed of building bones in the hip and spine increases by about five times.

Early puberty may reduce chances of osteoporosis, but it is not a healthy sign as it is associated with sedentary lifestyle, consumption of junk food and exposure to chemicals like detergents and pesticides that mimic estrogen. A study published in 2010 stated that girls with early puberty are more likely to develop breast and uterine cancer later. It also affects their psychological health and is linked to poor self-esteem, eating disorders and depression.

According to Manju Hotchandani, senior consultant of gynaecology and obstetrics at Moolchand Women’s Hospital in Delhi, though late puberty leads to a decrease in bone mass density, it also implies late menopause which, on the other hand, reduces osteoporosis risk.