It is unclear if the bones of overweight children are appropriately adapted to increased loads. The objective of this study was to compare bone geometry in 40 overweight (body mass index [BMI] > 85th percentile) and 94 healthy weight (BMI ≤ 85th percentile) subjects, ages 4-20 years. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (Hologic QDR 2000) scans were analyzed at the femoral shaft (FS) and narrow neck (NN) by the Hip Structure Analysis program. Subperiosteal width, cortical thickness and indices of bone axial and bending strength (bone cross-sectional area [CSA] and section modulus [Z]) were measured from bone mass profiles. Multivariate regression models were used to compare overweight and healthy weight subjects. Z was 11 (95% CI 5, 19) and 13 (7, 20) percent higher at the FS and NN, respectively, in overweight subjects (P < 0.001), adjusted for height, maturation and gender. At the NN, higher Z was due to greater subperiosteal width [4% (2, 7)] and bone CSA [10% (5, 16]) and at the FS, to higher bone CSA [10% (5, 16)] and thicker cortices [9% (3, 15)]. When lean mass was added to the models, bone variables did not differ between overweight and healthy weight subjects (P > 0.22), with the exception of NN subperiosteal width [3% (0, 6), P = 0.04]. Fat mass did not contribute significantly to any model. In summary, proximal femur bone geometric strength in overweight children was appropriately adapted to lean mass and height but greater weight in the form of fat mass did not have an independent effect on bone bending strength. These geometric adaptations are consistent with the mechanostat hypothesis that bone strength adapts primarily to muscle forces, not to static loads represented by body weight. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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