I live and practice in Apex, NC which is in the middle of what’s called the Triangle. For those of you now familiar with North Carolina, it’s basically the area that encompasses Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. It is also known for its prominent universities, namely Duke, UNC, and NC State. The reason I’m explaining this to you, is my post today comes from research just published by a researcher, Dr. Chad Stahl, from NC State University. Dr. Stahl’s research shows us the importance of calcium in our diets as children.
Granted, we all know that we need calcium for healthy bones. I advise most of my patients, the females especially, over the age of 35 to make sure they are taking a good calcium supplement. However, this new NC State study suggests that not getting enough calcium in the early days of life could have a lifelong impact on both bone health and even obesity. During this trial involving newborn pigs, it was found that the stem cells in the bone marrow of calcium-deprived piglets appeared to be programmed to become fat cells instead of bone-forming cells. Because these stem cells provide all the bone-forming cells for an animal’s entire life, early calcium deficiency may have predisposed the piglets to have bones that contain more fat and less mineral.
The researchers in this study used pigs as a model for human health because pigs and humans are similar in terms of bone growth and nutrition. Pigs are one of the few animals to experience fractures due to osteoporosis. Dr. Stahl thinks this research is relevant to the infant food industry as well as the nutritional status of breastfeeding mothers. It also points to a need for greater emphasis in early life on bone health. This may even change the way health professionals look at osteoporosis – not as a disease of the elderly but a late onset pediatric disease. It also points to the importance of childhood nutrition and the role it plays in the child’s health for the rest off their lives.