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Fetal, Early-Life Exposures May Impact Young Adult Bone Health

Specifically, maternal smoking and breastfeeding tied to fracture risk in young adulthood

FRIDAY, July 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Factors during gestation and infancy may impact bone health in young adulthood, according to a study published online July 8 in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Yi Yang, from the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia, and colleagues assessed whether fetal and early-life exposures (including maternal smoking during pregnancy, birth weight, and breastfeeding) are associated with areal bone mineral density (aBMD) in young adulthood. Two hundred and one participants were followed from the perinatal period to 25 years old.

The researchers observed significant interactions between the period of gestation and early-life exposures for bone measures. For participants born prematurely, there was a positive association between breastfeeding and hip and total body aBMD; total, cortical, and trabecular volumetric BMD; cortical thickness; porosity; trabecular number (Tb.N); separation; and bone volume fraction at radius and/or tibia at age 25 years. However, there were no associations among those born at term. Maternal smoking was not associated with any dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry/high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography measures in those born prematurely but was negatively associated with inner transitional zone porosity and Tb.N among full-term participants. After adjusting for weight gain since birth, associations of birth weight with bone measures did not persist. Breastfeeding was associated with a lower risk for lower-limb fractures, while maternal smoking was associated with an increased risk for upper-limb fractures.

“Breastfeeding and maternal smoking may have effects on peak bone microarchitecture whereas the association with birth weight is countered by subsequent growth,” the authors write.

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