At the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), Dr. Jessica Rivera presented her research on the effects of ADHD medications on the bone density of children and adolescents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 6.4 million children age 4-17–or approximately 11% of children in the US–have been diagnosed with ADHD. That’s an alarming number and a 28% increase from diagnoses reported in 2007.
For more information on ADHD itself, Healthline.com offers an excellent overview of the data.
Given that ADHD affects such a large percentage of children, it makes Dr. Rivera’s findings all that more important to consider.
She found that “children who took ADHD medication had lower bone mineral density in the femur, femoral neck, and lumbar spine, compared with the children who were not on medication.”
25% of children on ADHD medication also met the criteria for osteopenia, which could lead to poor bone health in adulthood for these children.
Some of the side effects of the medication can cause decreased appetite and upset stomachs, which could lead to poor nutrition for children with ADHD.
In a 2007 study in the Journal of Nutrition, Kevin Cashman noted:
“Calcium is required for normal growth and development of the skeleton. Adequate calcium intake is critical to achieving optimal peak bone mass and modifies the rate of bone loss associated with aging. Over the past decade, convincing evidence has emerged with respect to effects of dietary calcium on bone health in all age groups. The role of calcium in bone health has been extensively reviewed elsewhere. Unfortunately, there are a significant proportion of some population groups failing to achieve the recommended calcium intakes in a number of Western countries.”
The study continues on to discuss other important vitamins and dietary considerations in order to maintain excellent bone health.
So why would it be concerning that some ADHD medications have a negative impact on bone health? Because adolescence is crucial for developing a strong skeletal structure that will endure over time.
Dr. Scott Ferry, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at OrthoIllinois, said, “Most of the bone mass or peak bone mass is achieved in men and women by age 20. Children that regularly exercise have higher peak bone masses than those who do not regularly exercise. After age 30 everyone begins to lose bone mass, so it is critical to maximize bone mass during childhood and adolescence. The most important factors for maximizing bone mass are a balanced diet and regular exercise.”