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'Mandela's Paradox' may show that osteoporosis propensity starts in pre-teen years

San Diego (April 3, 2005) After Nelson Mandela was released from prison February 11, 1990, all children born in the greater Johannesburg area were enrolled in a 20-year longitudinal study. Officially known as "Birth to Twenty," the study and its 3,273 youth, are colloquially referred to as "Mandela's Children." It's the largest and longest running study of child and adolescent health and development in Africa, and one of the few large-scale longitudinal studies in the world.

One of the main aims of the study is to follow bone health in growing children, specifically the differences in bone mass acquisition between black and white children and the factors that influence this.

Besides its obvious importance in adult health and possibly measuring the change from "third world" population to "developed world" population, there is a situation in South Africa that's very counterintuitive, and possibly unique: "Black South African adults have among the lowest hip fracture rates in the world," according to the study's lead author, Joanne A. McVeigh.

"Yet our study found that, as children, blacks have significantly lower physical activity levels and calcium intakes than age- and gender-matched white children," McVeigh adds. McVeigh is presenting the research at the 35th Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences in San Diego, March 31 - April 5, 2005.

*Paper presentation: "Physical activity and bone mass accumulation patterns differ in black and white South African children," by Joanne A. McVeigh, Shane A. Norris and John M. Pettifor, MRC Mineral Metabolism Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, and School of Physiology, University of Witwatersrand Medical School, Johannesburg. 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m. Sunday April 3, Physiology session/abstract: 347.8; board #A64. On view 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

9- and 10-year-olds compared for exercise level, bone mineral content

Since it's accepted that physical activit
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