RALEIGH, N.C., April 28 (UPI) -- Prevention of osteoporosis, a disease that plagues the elderly, may begin in newborn or even neonatally, U.S. researchers say.
"While the importance of calcium nutrition throughout childhood and adolescence is well recognized, our work suggests that calcium nutrition of the neonate may be of greater importance to lifelong bone health," Dr. Chad Stahl of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, says in a statement.
Stahl and colleagues bottle-fed 12 piglets a calcium-rich diet and another 12 a diet deficient in calcium during the first 18 days of life. They drew frequent blood samples, weighed the piglets daily and at study's end collected tissue samples. They also tested the hind legs for bone density and strength.
Stahl says the results were surprising and intriguing. No differences were found in terms of blood markers but differences were found in the bone marrow, where some of those cells forming future bone, known as osteoblasts, were replaced with fat cells.
The fewer osteoblasts early in life may result in bones not growing and repairing well throughout life.
The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Anaheim, Calif.