The influence of dairy consumption, sedentary behaviour and physical activity on bone mass in Flemish children: a cross-sectional study

BMC Public Health. 2015 Jul 28;15:717. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-2077-7.


Background: This cross-sectional study aimed to look for an association in young children between whole body bone mineral content (BMC) and areal bone mineral density (aBMD) and dairy consumption as well as sedentary behaviour (SB) and physical activity (PA). Moreover, we investigated whether there was an interaction effect between dairy consumption and SB or PA on BMC and aBMD.

Methods: Healthy children (6-12 years) were recruited from primary schools. Body composition and whole body bone mass were measured with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), dairy consumption was assessed with a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) and PA and SB with an accelerometer. In total, 272 children underwent a DXA scan. Complete FFQ data were available for 264 children and 210 children had matching data from accelerometry recordings. Regression analyses were used to study the associations between (1) BMC and aBMD and (2) dairy consumption, SB and PA, adjusting for age, gender, pubertal stage, height and body composition.

Results: Dairy consumption was positively associated with whole body BMC and aBMD (absolute value as well as z-score), after correction for relevant confounders. SB was negatively associated with aBMD z-score and light PA was positively associated with both BMC and aBMD z-score. No gender differences were found. Moreover, an interaction effect between vigorous PA (VPA) and dairy consumption on aBMD (z-score) and BMC z-score was found, indicating that children with both high VPA and high dairy consumption had higher values for BMC and aBMD of the whole body minus the head.

Conclusion: Already at young age, PA and dairy consumption positively influence whole body bone mass assessed by DXA. Moreover, this study indicates clearly that SB is negatively associated with whole body bone density. Promoting regular PA and sufficient dairy consumption in young children and limiting SB can be expected to positively influence their bone mass accumulation, which can help in the prevention of osteoporosis later in life.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Belgium
  • Body Composition
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dairy Products / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Sedentary Behavior*