Optimal body mass index (BMI) coupled with favourable body composition of lean mass and visceral fat is associated with accrual of bone mineral density (BMD) and peak bone mass (PBM) which is vital for setting up BMD within normal ranges for adult life.
New research demonstrates that high BMI exerts a negative effect on the accumulation of BMD and bone architecture in young people. This is something of a surprise. Elevated BMI in young people is known to have a deleterious effect on cardio-metabolic health. However, to date the thinking has been that raised BMI would at least mean that weight bearing exercise would be “weighted” and hence favour accumulation of BMD. Rather it is reported that elevated BMI with increased visceral fat results in impaired bone architecture and BMD. Coupled with decreased lean mass, this means less muscle to exert force on the skeleton to promote BMD accumulation. This distorted body composition impairs attainment of PBM.
In my research, deficiency of BMD was found to be irreversible later in adult life, despite normalising body weight, shown for those at the other end of the spectrum of BMI. Those with relative energy deficiency in sports (REDs), formally known as the female athlete triad, demonstrated suboptimal BMD correlated with previous duration of low weight, amenorrhea and delayed onset of menarche, many years on despite return to optimal body weight and normal menstrual status.
Adverse body composition with increased deposition of visceral fat is seen in patients with growth hormone (GH) deficiency, for example post pituitary surgery. Interestingly in these young people with high levels of visceral fat, low levels of GH were recorded. The proposed mechanism of suppression of GH secretion in overweight young people has been discussed. Interestingly high levels of leptin are found in overweight youngsters, compared to low levels found my studies of low weight young dancers with menstrual disturbance. In other words, there appears to be feedback between body weight, body composition and the endocrine system. The other disadvantage of high levels of adipose tissue is that fat soluble vitamin D is “fat locked” and unable to support bone mineral accumulation.
Optimal BMI and body composition are factors associated with accrual of BMD and PBM which is vital for setting up BMD within normal ranges for adult life. In those young people with high BMI and disrupted body composition, dietary measures are needed to reduce body weight. Combined with exercise, including resistance and cardiovascular weight bearing forms, to improve body composition and thus bone architecture and BMD accrual.
Optimal health: including female athletes! Part 1 Bones Dr N. Keay, British Journal Sport Medicine
Optimal Health: Especially Young Athletes! Part 3 – Consequences of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports Dr N. Keay, British Association Sport and Exercise Medicine