A new review shows a potentially harmful connection between body fat and bone growth.
x-ray of bones
Credit: FOAP

"It's a common understanding that in children, muscle is a very strong determinant of how bone is going to grow," said lead author Joseph Kindler. "Obese children will tend to have more muscle, so we would suspect that they would also have larger, stronger bones."

Kindler and his team pulled together previously published findings to give an up-to-date look at how muscle influences bone geometry and strength during youth. Researchers were interested in looking at the measures of size and strength of the bone—particularly for children and adolescents—because bone geometric features can tell them how strong a bone is.

The role of fat in these relationships was also investigated. "One of our major goals is to understand how obesity-related conditions, like the progression of Type 2 diabetes, can influence muscle and bone growth in children," Kindler said.

Researchers found that muscle was a strong contributor to bone growth throughout childhood and adolescence. However, this relationship may differ in obese children, because the excess fat that accompanies obesity can be deposited within the muscle, which may have an effect on how the bone grows.

The review was published in the journal Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, and Kindler hopes to use the findings to fill holes in the research gaps.

"This paper summarizes the literature that's been published," he said. "We know that muscle is such an important contributor to bone development. But it also shows that our understanding of how fat influences these relationships is still unclear."

Due to the potential harmful connection between body fat and bone growth, Kindler suggested that all children strive to live a healthy lifestyle through proper diet and exercise.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.