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Lack of proper diet can make teen bones brittle

Oct 03, 2008 12:42 PM IST India India

New Delhi: Arnav has recently started college. For a teenager looking good and being the right height and weight can be very important. In order to fit in, Arnav had been denying himself the right quality and quantity of nutrition for years.

"He wouldn't drink milk and wouldn't take the right nutrition. As a mother I would scold him and try and get him to take two glasses of milk a day, but you know how children are?" says his mother Alka.

A poor diet lacking proteins and calcium led to Arnav losing weight. Since the body was not getting enough calcium, it started disintegrating the bones and drawing calcium from them.

"While coming down one day, I lost my balance and fell. My wrist got twisted and it was really bad," recalls Arnav.

"After the X-rays were taken of the fracture, the doctors were very surprised that for a 17-year old his bones were not very strong," adds his mother.

Arnav's bone density was much below what it should be for a normal teenage boy which is around minus 1 on the bone density scale.

Orthopaedic Surgeon at Max , Dr Rajiv Thukral says, "To a large extent, Arnav had a weak constitution to start of with."

Arnav is part of a disturbing statistic. Twenty per cent young urban Indians have some form of bone disease today. The reasons range from poor nutrition and complete lack of outdoor activity and extreme eating disorders like anorexia. All these can cause irreversable damage to young bones.

AIIMS Endocrinologist, Dr Nikhil Tandon says, "Genetic factors are important. They are non-modifiable and therefore we must concentrate on the modifiable risk factors which are lifestyle factors. These include nutritional factors and also physical activity on a regular basis, which is weight-bearing physical activity."

Arnav, doctors say, has age on his side. We build bone density upto the age of 30 and after that the bone density begins to deplete, and that's why those initial years are so crucial.