Low bone density in younger adults: five common causes

Weakened bones, low bone mineral density and the more serious conditions of osteopenia and osteoporosis are largely considered to affect the older population. While it’s true that the older we get the more likely we are to have thinning bones, ageing is far from the only cause of declining bone mineral density and there are other reasons why younger people’s bone health may be compromised.

Bone mineral density (BMD) is a measure of the amount of minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, present in your bones. Low bone mineral density can lead to more brittle bones bringing an increased risk of fractures, even at a younger age. Below we explore five common causes of low bone mineral density in younger adults, highlighting factors that may affect bone health.

  1. Overtraining and Excessive Exercise

While regular exercise is essential for overall health, excessive training without adequate rest and nutrition can have adverse effects on bone health. Intense physical activity, particularly in endurance sports or weight-bearing exercises, can lead to hormonal imbalances. These commonly manifest themselves as a decrease in oestrogen levels in women and testosterone levels in men, both of which can negatively impact bone density.

  1. Gut Diseases and Malabsorption Issues

Gut diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and coeliac disease can impair the absorption of essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and magnesium, which are vital for maintaining bone health. Chronic inflammation in the digestive tract can also interfere with the absorption of nutrients essential for bone strength, which can lead to low bone mineral density.

  1. Anorexia/Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and orthorexia, can significantly affect bone health due to nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances. A severely restricted calorie intake deprives the body of essential nutrients, again including calcium and vitamin D, necessary for bone formation and maintenance. In addition to this, irregular menstrual cycles or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) which are associated with eating disorders can lead to decreased oestrogen levels, further contributing to bone loss.

  1. Cancer Treatment

Treatments for certain cancers, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormonal therapies, can weaken bones, decreasing bone density. Chemotherapy is especially disruptive in regard to normal bone remodelling processes, leading to bone loss and an increased risk of fractures. The hormonal therapies used in the treatment of breast and prostate cancers can also impact hormone levels, affecting bone density.

  1. Early Menopause and Hormonal Imbalances

Early menopause, whether natural or induced through the surgical removal of ovaries, can result in a significant decline in oestrogen levels. Oestrogen deficiency will accelerate bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures at a younger age. Hormonal imbalances due to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also have a negative effect on bone health.

Conclusion

Maintaining optimal bone health is essential for overall wellbeing and quality of life. Some factors contributing to low bone mineral density may be beyond our control, such as genetic predisposition and certain medical conditions.  However, lifestyle choices and proactive measures can significantly improve bone health.

Younger adults should prioritise a balanced diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients, along with regular (but not excessive) weight-bearing exercise to support bone strength. Additionally, seeking early medical intervention for underlying conditions like gut diseases, eating disorders and hormonal imbalances is crucial for preserving bone health.

Don’t be complacent

If you or someone you know is at risk of compromised bone health – whatever their age – now’s the time to take proactive steps to mitigate this. Taking a 5g serving of bonebalance every day will help to strengthen your bones. Being 100% natural and a Food for Special Medical Purpose, bonebalance has no contraindications with any medicines and is well tolerated, even among people with a sensitive gut. It’s well worth taking bonebalance to prevent potential problems in the future.