Lack of milk, sunlight and exercise are damaging to the bones. And for some children this leads to rickets, the Associated Press reports.
But cases of rickets are only an alarm signal. Specialists say that millions of healthy children do not form their bones as strong as they should - which makes them more vulnerable to osteoporosis later in life.
Currently, scientists are taking the first steps to monitor the quality of children's bones and try to estimate how big this problem is. Heidi Lalkwarf of Cincinnati Children's Hospital conducted a study that scanned the bones of 1,500 healthy children ages 6-17 to see how bone mass is accumulating.
Another study continued to monitor those 1,500 children for 7 years to see how their bone mass formed. Experts say that almost half of the bone mass develops in adolescence. Children who do not develop well during this period are prone to fractures before the age of 30 and recover very hard.
Previous studies show that even a 10% bone mass deficit in late adolescence can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures by up to 50%.
There is evidence that, at present, children break their bones more often than 40 years ago - girls 56% more often and boys 32% more often.
Specialists say that bones need more than calcium to be healthy. Exercises are just as important. The hand most used by a tennis player has 35% more bone mass than the other hand.
Also, the body can not absorb calcium and strengthen bones without vitamin D. It seems that 30% of adolescents have a very large deficit. The problem is not limited to the fact that these children do not drink enough milk. Their body also needs vitamin D which is produced with the help of sunlight.
Rahitism marks the biggest deficiency, when the bones become soft and the legs bend. Specialists are now looking for new ways to treat this condition because old methods such as milk fortification no longer bear fruit. Fortunately, if rickets are detected in the early stages, they can be treated with high doses of vitamin D and calcium.
November 27, 2007