The Effects of Nutrition, Puberty and Dancing on Bone Density in Adolescent Ballet Dancers

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Abstract:

Ballet dancers have on average a low bone mineral content (BMC), with elevated fracture-risk, low body mass index (BMI) for age (body mass index, kg/m2), low energy intake, and delayed puberty. This study aims at a better understanding of the interactions of these factors, especially with regard to nutrition. During a competition for pre-professional dancers we examined 127 female participants (60 Asians, 67 Caucasians). They averaged 16.7 years of age, started dancing at 5.8 years, and danced 22 hours/week. Assessments were made for BMI, BMC (DXA), and bone mineral apparent density (BMAD) at the lumbar spine and femoral neck, pubertal stage (Tanner score), and nutritional status (EAT-40 questionnaire and a qualitative three-day dietary record). BMI for age was found to be normal in only 42.5% of the dancers, while 15.7% had a more or less severe degree of thinness (12.6% Grade2 and 3.1% Grade 3 thinness). Menarche was late (13.9 years, range 11 to 16.8 years). Food intake, evaluated by number of consumed food portions, was below the recommendations for a normally active population in all food groups except animal proteins, where the intake was more than twice the recommended amount. In this population, with low BMI and intense exercise, BMC was low and associated with nutritional factors; dairy products had a positive and non-dairy proteins a negative influence. A positive correlation between BMAD and years since menarche confirmed the importance of exposure to estrogens and the negative impact of delayed puberty. Because of this and the probable negative influence of a high intake of non-dairy proteins, such as meat, fish, and eggs, and the positive association with a high dairy intake, ballet schools should promote balanced diets and normal weight and should recognize and help dancers avoid eating disorders and delayed puberty caused by extensive dancing and inadequate nutrition.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Clinique Bois-Cerf, Osteoporosis Consultation, Lausanne, Switzerland 2: Centre for Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland 3: Unité de medicine du sport, VidyMed, Lausanne, Switzerland 4: Centre d'épidémiologie clinique, University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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