Overweight at 4? Beware of Broken Bones

Overweight at 4? Beware of Broken Bones

Obesity in preschoolers may be linked to bone fractures in childhood, scientists report.

Spanish researchers recorded body mass index in 466,997 children who underwent routine preschool health screening at age 4 between 2006 and 2013. They followed them for up to 11 years. In this study, which used World Health Organization definitions for body weight, 7.6 percent of the children were overweight or obese.

They found that compared with children of normal weight, those who were overweight were at a 42 percent increased risk for a broken leg and a 10 percent increased risk for a broken arm. Obese children had a 74 percent increased risk for arm fractures and a 19 percent increased risk of breaking a leg.

The study, in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, controlled for age, sex and socioeconomic status, but the researchers had no data on vitamin D levels, physical activity, or diseases that might affect bone health.

The authors suggest that inflammation caused by obesity might reduce bone density, and the extra weight and poor balance in obese children are likely to put additional stress on bones.

“We usually think of the consequences of obesity in older life,” said the senior author, Daniel Prieto-Alhambra, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at Oxford. “But even at age 4 we’re already seeing longstanding impact. Fractures are not killers, but they do impact quality of life.”

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