The late teens are a key time for bone growth, even after young people reach their full height.
A new study included more than 2,000 youngsters who had annual bone and growth measurements for up to seven years as they moved into their late teens and early adulthood.
The findings highlight the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity during the late teen years, according to authors of the study published recently in JAMA Pediatrics.
”We often think of a child’s growth largely with respect to height, but overall bone development is also important,” said lead author Dr. Shana McCormack, a pediatric researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
”This study shows that roughly 10 percent of bone mass continues to accumulate after a teenager reaches his or her adult height,” McCormack said in a hospital news release.
The study also found that bone growth develops at different rates in different parts of the skeleton, that it peaks earlier in black Americans than in other racial groups, and that height growth far outpaces bone growth before adolescence.
The latter finding could help explain why children and teens have high fracture rates. Between 30 percent and 50 percent will have at least one broken bone before adulthood.
The late teen years offer health care providers a chance to set young patients on a path to a healthy life, the researchers said.
”Late adolescence is when some teenagers adopt risky behaviors, such as smoking and alcohol use, worse dietary choices and decreased physical activity, all of which can impair bone development,” McCormack said. ”This period is a time for parents and caregivers to encourage healthier behaviors, such as better diets and more physical activity.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on teen health.