One of the few health benefits of being overweight, or even obese, is a lower risk of osteoporosis. Heavier body weight in adults puts more stress on the skeleton and strengthens bones, which in turn helps prevent fractures. However, a study by researchers at New York's Columbia University suggests that obesity in childhood and adolescence may not offer similar protection. In fact, such obesity may boost the risk of later developing osteoporosis.
Pediatric endocrinologist Mary Horlick and her colleagues at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center studied 344 children. They found that fat seems to contribute little to the development of bone mineral content in childhood, the crucial years of bone formation.
The best bone builder, Horlick said, is lean tissue.
Horlick, whose study was presented at the Endocrine Society's recent annual conference, said the results, which require confirmation, have potentially ominous implications. Bone mass must be laid down in the first 21/2 decades of life; so far, scientists haven't devised a foolproof way for people to build new bone later, only to stem the loss of existing bone.