A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin D levels may help children, particularly males, develop optimal peak bone mass.
From calcium absorption to bone mineralization, the importance of vitamin D in our bodies has been well-established and documented. Despite this, vitamin D deficiency in children and adolescents is still common. In fact, researchers estimate that the prevalence of adolescent vitamin D deficiency ranges from 17% to 47%. Until recently, there have been few studies tracking vitamin D status from childhood to early adulthood, so it was uncertain how the vitamin was related to bone mass. However, a new study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sought to characterize their enigmatic relationship.
This longitudinal prospective study included data from 821 children from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) study. The original study recruited 2900 pregnant women between 1989 and 1991, whose offspring were invited to attend periodic follow-up visits. The current study was restricted to participants who underwent a whole-body bone density scan at 20 years of age and also had measurements of serum vitamin D taken at three or more of the following time points: 6, 14, 17, and 20 years of age. The researchers found that vitamin D status during childhood was a significant predictor of peak bone mass in male subjects. Furthermore, males with a consistently high vitamin D status throughout childhood and adolescence had significantly higher total-body bone mass than those with lower vitamin D measurements. While the basis for the sex difference is uncertain, the researchers tentatively attributed it to differences in sex hormones, as both estrogens and androgens influence the growth and maintenance of bones.
Doctors say that the achievement of optimal peak bone mass can protect against osteoporosis. Therefore, the results of this study may be clinically relevant, reducing fracture risks and their associated burdens on the healthcare system. However, it’s important to remember that the critical periods for bone growth and development occur early in life. So, parents, in order to avoid fractures and hospital bills later in life, make sure your children and teenagers are getting enough vitamin D now!
Written By: Rebecca Yu