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Study finds huge rise in wrist, forearm fractures in youth

Source: New York Newsday | Staff Writer
Posted on September 17th, 2003

A study that looked at wrist and forearm fractures in young people has found a dramatic increase in breaks during the past 30 years, especially among girls aged 8-11.

While the study did not determine a reason for the rise in fractures, the lead researcher raised concern about insufficient calcium in the diets of preteens and teens, when bone is growing rapidly.

Boys still suffer more fractures than girls, but while the fracture rate for boys increased 32 percent between 1969-1971 and 1999-2001, the fracture rate for girls increased 56 percent during that time span, the study found. The paper was published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Overall, the study found the fracture rate increased 42 percent in young people over the span of three decades.

Adolescence is a peak period for fractures, which may be related to bones becoming more porous during growth spurts.

“It was somewhat surprising to us to find such dramatic changes,” said Dr. Sundeep Khosla, principal investigator and a professor of medicine in endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “One possibility is that kids are much more physically active, which I find hard to believe,” Khosla said. “The more disturbing possibility is that this is due to a temporary deficit in bone mass because kids are not getting enough calcium.”

Because about one-quarter of an adult’s bone mass is accumulated during adolescent growth spurts, he said, “The question is, 30 of 40 years from now, will these kids be at higher risk for developing osteoporosis and fracturing their hips and vertebrae?”

The study used medical records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project to look at all fractures of the wrist and the part of the forearm closest to the wrist among people younger than 35 in the Rochester, Minn., area.

The paper cited government research that found a decrease in milk consumption among older girls, and an increase in consumption of carbonated soft drinks. One school of thought suggests phosphates in carbonated drinks inhibit calcium absorption. Another possibility is simply that the carbonated drinks have displaced calcium-rich milk in the diet. The recommended daily intake of calcium for adolescents is four or five dairy servings, such as yogurt or a glass of milk, Khosla said.

Smoking and other drug use also may have a negative impact on bone mass, the paper said.