Weaker Bones in Kids with Stomach Problems

Inflammatory bowel diseases keep children from growing strong bones in the long haul

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Milk can do the body good. But if the calcium can't be absorbed well by kids, their bones don't do so well either. Kids with long-term digestive problems have lower bone density as they grow older, new research has found.

Though bone density is lower amongst these children, they "have the potential to improve their bone mineral density by the time they reach early adulthood," researchers report.

"Make sure kids get enough calcium."

Researchers aimed to see how inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, affect children’s bones. These diseases cause pain and discomfort in the stomach and abdomen.

The study, led by Susanne Schmidt from the Department of Pediatrics at the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg in Sweden, looked at 144 Swedish children between January 2003 and January 2007. They were about 14-years-old on average and more than half were boys. Eighty-three of the children had ulcerative colitis, another 45 had Crohn's and the rest had indeterminate colitis, which has symptoms of both of the stomach issues.

Patients had their blood drawn and underwent a full body scan to measure their body density to find how much muscle, fat and bone they had. Researchers looked specifically at the density in patients' lumbar spine located in the lower part of the back. Two years later, 126 children participated in the follow-up study. At that point, 75 had ulcerative colitis, 37 had Crohn's and 14 had indeterminate colitis.

The bone density in boys was lower than it was in girls at the beginning of the study, and it did not change by the end, researchers found. Two years later, bone density was significantly lower among both groups of kids with digestive problems.

Older kids between 17- and 19-years-old had the lowest bone density, but this group improved their bone density the most after two years.

Patients with density scores below average were given calcium and vitamin D supplements, which did not change density levels at the two-year mark.

"Our data indicate that gains in bone mass density may continue even beyond late adolescence in patients with IBD and that there may be potential for recovery of bone mass density in boys and girls into early adulthood," researchers wrote in their report.

The authors note they may have underestimated bone density in patients who have stunted growth because of the poor nutrition stemming from digestive problems.

Their findings may not be generalized to larger populations since their patients came only from Sweden. The study was published in the November 2012 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition. Various companies and medical associations around Sweden, specifically in Gothenburg, funded the study.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 25, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013