The onset of puberty seems to have a primary influence on adult bone mineral density, or bone strength, according to a team of researchers.
The researchers, led by Vicente Gilsanz, director of Clinical Imaging at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, also found that the length of puberty did not affect bone density.
Reduced bone mineral density leads to osteoporosis, resulting in bones becoming increasingly brittle and at risk for fracture.
The Bone Mineral Density in Childhood Study investigators studied 78 girls and 84 boys who had just entered puberty, until they reached sexual maturity.
"Puberty has a significant role in bone development," explained Gilsanz.
"During this time, bones lengthen and increase in density. At the end of puberty the epiphyseal plates close, terminating the ability of the bones to lengthen. When this occurs, the teenager has reached their maximum adult height and peak bone mass. We found that early puberty was associated with greater bone mass while later puberty resulted in less," Gilsanz added.