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BACKGROUND: We investigated whether Body Mass Index (BMI) at 11 years old has a direct effect on bone mass at age 18 operating through alterations to bone growth and development, or whether the association is mediated by concurrent BMI, fat mass (FM), and fat free mass (FFM).
METHODS: Path analysis was used to explore the association between BMI at age 11 and whole-body bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD) assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) at age 18 in a prospective birth cohort study comprising 3,307 adolescents; we also evaluated the degree to which this association was mediated by BMI, FM (kg) and FFM (kg) assessed by plethysmography (BOD POD) at age 18.
RESULTS: We found a positive association between BMI at age 11 and BMC (males [β = 179.7 g, 95% CI 161.4; 198.0]; females [β = 179.9 g, 95% CI 165.3; 194.6]) and BMD (males [β = 0.030 g/cm2, 95% CI 0.024; 0.035]; females [β = 0.029 g/cm2, 95% CI 0.025; 0.033]) at age 18. This association was largely mediated by BMI and FFM at age 18 in both female and male adolescents. FM at age 18 was not an important mediator.
CONCLUSIONS: Concurrent BMI and FFM were the main mediators of the association between BMC/BMD in late adolescence and BMI in early adolescence.