Axial and peripheral bone mineral acquisition: a 3-year longitudinal study in Chinese adolescents

Eur J Pediatr. 1999 Jun;158(6):506-12. doi: 10.1007/s004310051131.


We performed a 3-year longitudinal study of a group of 179 healthy Chinese adolescents (92 boys and 87 girls) aged from 12 to 16 years to determine the effects of puberty, physical activity, physical fitness, and calcium intake on the acquisition of bone mass. At yearly intervals for 3 consecutive years we recorded nutrition, calcium intake and anthropometric measurements, and assessed pubertal status according to Tanner. Bone mass of the lumbar spine was determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and radial bone mass by single-photon absorptiometry. Physical fitness and level of physical activity were assessed and muscle strength and power determined by isokinetic testing. Peripheral bone mass correlated with axial skeleton bone mass. Age, pubertal staging, physical fitness and muscle strength were significantly associated with bone mass increments on cross-sectional univariate and regression analysis. Longitudinal regression analysis showed that the most important factor affecting bone mass accretion in adolescents in both sexes was their pubertal stage. In boys, bone mass increment throughout the study was greater in children who were already in the advanced pubertal stages on entering the study than in those who started puberty in year 2 or 3 of the study. The percentage change in bone mineral content of the forearm and in bone mineral density of the lumbar spine was greater than 25% in the advanced pubertal group as compared to around 20% in the less mature group. For girls, the reverse was true. The increment of bone mass during the study period was significantly greater in those who presented in the earlier pubertal stages than in those who were at the more advanced stage of puberty on entry into the study. There was no significant effect of calcium intake and physical activities on the bone mass accretion.

Conclusion: In Chinese adolescents, bone mineral accretion at adolescence is not influenced by exercise, level of physical fitness and calcium intake. In both sexes, and especially in girls, to optimally increase bone mass, regular physical exercise programmes should be instituted well before the onset of puberty rather than at or after it. Once puberty starts, these interventions may have no or only limited effect.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anthropometry
  • Asians
  • Bone Density*
  • China
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Puberty
  • Regression Analysis