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    Study: Late puberty affects bone mineral density

    A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research suggests that individuals whose genetic makeup prompts puberty to start later than average have lower bone mineral density (BMD), especially in their lower spine. The authors note that such a decrease could lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life.

    Using data from the Bone Mineral Density in Childhood study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the authors looked at bone and growth measurements during annual visits of 200 healthy children, adolescents, and young adults from 2002 to 2010. The researchers also created gender-specific polygenic risk scores (GRS) consisting of 333 genetic variants associated with later puberty in European-descent children. These consisted of a longitudinal cohort with up to 7 assessments (n = 933) and a cross-sectional cohort (n = 486). The GRS were tested for associations with age- and sex-specific areal bone mineral density (aBMD) Z-scores at the lumbar spine, femoral neck, total hip, and distal radius. These measurements accounted for clinical covariates using sex-stratified linear mixed models.

    The researchers found that the results varied according to the part of skeleton in which BMD was measured, but the lowest-density areas were in the lower back and hip bones. Using a separate two-sample Mendelian Randomization analysis, they found that later puberty caused lower BMD in both adult males and females. In addition, a strong causal effect was found in adolescent girls but not in adolescent boys. The researchers noted that the number of boys in the analysis may have been too small to show a significant correlation. Their research, they said, suggests that pubertal timing is causal for diminished aBMD in a skeletal site- and sex-specific manner and that physicians should use this information to develop strategies to optimize BMD during skeletal development in patients.


    Judith M. Orvos, ELS
    Judith M. Orvos, ELS, is a a BELS-certified medical writer and editor and an editorial consultant for Contemporary OB/GYN.
    Ben Schwartz
    Ben Schwartz is Associate Editor, Contemporary OB/GYN.


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