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Boys Are Born With Stronger Spines, Says New Study

The “Battle of the Sexes” is an age old discussion. Since the ancient times, the world has fought over who is strongest – male or female? While the fight continues, a new study has shown that boys are indeed born with stronger spines than girls.

Scientists from the U.S. utilized magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) for their research and discovered that on average chief structural measurement of the vertebra’s strength known as “vertebral cross-sectional dimensions” is 10.6 percent smaller in female newborns compared to males.


The research team measured 70 (35 girls and 35 boys) healthy and full-term infants, for the experiment. They took into account their body length, weight and head and waist circumference, but none of these varied between the sexes. When they took into account the vertebral cross-sectional dimension, which is the disparity regardless of gestational age, body length and birth weight.

As per the research, over their lifetimes, females also assemble less bone mass compared to men that leads to a twice or four times elevation in spinal fracture in them. A shortage of vertebral growth in girls is connected with superior spinal suppleness and inferior peak bone mass in young women, which ultimately leads to an elevated probability of scoliosis and osteoporosis as well, in the later stages of life.

Vicente Gilsanz who is associated with the Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital and the University of Southern California and the senior author of the research informed that of all mammals, this difference is only noticed in human beings, “and it is one of the few key psychological differences between the sexes.”

Although the mechanism involved in the smaller female vertebral body at the time the fetus undergoes skeleton development stays unknown, the difficult interactions engaging growth hormone, sex steroids and insulin-like growth factor might be the possibilities.

Glisanz said although girls are born with a tendency to have osteoporosis as older adults, “bone development can be optimized by exercise and nutrition.” He added that the optimized method is an example that traits, which make a person prone to illness, can be alleviated via “personalized medicine and customized health care, beginning early in life.”

The paper reported that the reason for this disparity could be because the spine has to shift forward at the time of pregnancy for the woman to walk and maintain her center of gravity. However, this enforces a disadvantage by raising the stress level within the vertebrae due to all the physical activities, leading to a major vulnerability for fractures in the later stages of life.

However, Glisanz stressed that even after knowing girls had smaller vertebrae compared to boys, they “did not know how early this difference first occurred.” He added that their study showed that the disparity “between sexes is already present at birth, and provides new evidence that this difference begins during prenatal development of the axial skeleton.”

The study has been published in the August issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 200 million women are affected by osteoporosis across the globe. This covers an estimate of one-tenth of women who are 60 years old, one-fifth who are 70 years old, two-fifths of women who are 80 year olds and two-thirds of women who are 90 year olds.

It also reported that as a whole 61 percent osteoporotic fractures are seen in women with the women to men ratio as 1.6.

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