Teenage girls who diet to reach size zero may put their bones at risk of long-term problems such as osteoporosis.

Findings revealed Wednesday from the Children of the 90s project, which followed a group of children for nearly two decades, shows that fat mass plays an important role in building bone, particularly in girls.

The researchers, from Britain's Bristol University, looked at more than 4,000 young people aged 15, using scanning techniques that calculated the shape and density of their bones, as well as how much body fat they had.

Those with higher levels of fat tended to have larger and thicker bones. It has long been known that the amount of muscle in the body is related to bone growth, but the findings show the role that fat plays.

In girls, an 11 pound increase in fat mass was associated with an 8 percent increase in the circumference of the tibia (lower leg bone).

As girls tend to have higher levels of fat than boys, even when they are of normal weight, the findings suggest that fat plays an important role in female bone development, with the positive influence about 70 percent greater in girls.

Recent research by the Eating Disorders Research Unit at King’s College London found that constant images of stick-thin, size zero models, pop stars and actresses is fueling a rise in eating disorders. Evidence from 25 research studies showed that this effect was strongest in adolescents.

Until now, research has focused on lean mass - the amount of muscle - as one of the strongest determinants of bone mass throughout life, while previous studies have been inconsistent regarding the effect of fat on bone development.

SOURCE LINK: Times of London