(RxWiki News) Researchers have found that the onset of puberty acts as the primary influencing factor of bone-mineral density (bone strength) in adults.
A team led by Vicente Gilsanz, MD, PhD, director of Clinical Imaging at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles found that the length of puberty did not appear to play a role in adult bone strength, but the age of onset did.
They found that earlier puberty was associated with greater bone mass while later sexual development was linked to less bone density. At the end of puberty, when sexual maturity peaks, teenagers have reached their maximum height and peak bone mass.
Loss of bone strength can lead to osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and frail, leading to fractures.
For the study, researchers followed 78 girls and 84 boys who had just entered puberty, until they reached sexual maturity. A 10 percent to 20 percent increase in bone density from early puberty corresponds to an additional 10 to 20 years of protection against the normal age-related decline in bone strength, which decreases in adults about one percent to two percent each year.
About 55 percent of Americans aged 50 and over are afflicted with osteoporosis. Women are at higher risk of developing the disease than men.