Early Life Exposures Affect Bone Density in Young Adulthood

newborn baby and mother
newborn baby and mother
Early life exposures, such as maternal smoking and breastfeeding, may have effects on bone mineral density in young adulthood.

The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2018 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research in Montreal, Canada. Endocrinology Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading experts on bone health. Check back for the latest news from ASBMR 2018 .

Early life exposures may have an effect on bone mineral density (BMD) into young adulthood, according to a study presented at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2018 Annual Meeting on September 29, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Researchers at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania investigated whether the associations between early life exposures and bone mass previously observed at ages 8 and 16 persisted into young adulthood and extended to microarchitecture.

The study followed 201 participants from birth to age 25 years and measured BMD at the spine, hip, and total body by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Trabecular and cortical bone measures were taken by high-resolution peripheral quantitative computerized tomography at the radius and the tibia. Other factors such as breastfeeding status, maternal smoking, anthropometrics, birth weight, and data from a maternal nutrient and food questionnaire were evaluated in the study.

The results showed that for participants born prematurely, long-term beneficial associations of breastfeeding included improvements in volumetric density, porosity in cortical and inner transitional zones, trabecular number, and trabecular bone volume fraction at the radius or tibia at age 25. Maternal smoking during pregnancy was not associated with porosity and trabecular microarchitecture, and maternal meat intake during pregnancy was associated with higher total volumetric BMD and lower porosity at compact cortical, outer, and inner transitional zones.

For participants born to term, benefits of breastfeeding on BMD were not present. Smoking during full-term pregnancies was associated with higher trabecular separation and inner transitional zone porosity and lower trabecular volumetric BMD, trabecular number, and trabecular bone volume fraction. There was also no significant association between maternal nutrient and food intake with participants’ volumetric BMD at age 25.

“This study suggests that early life exposures may have [affected] bone development until the time of peak bone mass,” according to the researchers.

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Yang Y, Wu F, Dwyer T, Winzenberg T, Jones G. The association of breastfeeding, maternal smoking, birth weight and maternal diet with bone density and microarchitecture in young adulthood: a 25-year longitudinal study. Presented at: 2018 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Annual Meeting; September 28-October 1, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Abstract 0826.