Because the development of healthy bodies during the years of growth has life-long health consequences, it is important to understand the early influences of diet and physical activity (PA). One way to generate hypotheses concerning such influences is to conduct cross-sectional studies of how diet and PA are related to different components of body composition. The subjects were 660 black and white adolescents. Total body bone mineral content (BMC) was measured with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; free-living diet and PA were assessed with 4-7 separate 24-h recalls. The main dietary variables investigated were: total energy intake, macronutrient distribution (%), dairy servings, vitamin D, and calcium. The main PA variables were hours of moderate PA (3-6 METs) and vigorous PA (>6 METs). BMC was higher in blacks than in whites (P<0.01) and it increased more in boys than in girls (age by sex interaction) as age increased (P<0.01). After adjustment for age, race and sex, higher levels of BMC were associated with higher levels of energy intake, dairy servings, calcium, vitamin D, and vigorous PA (all P 's<0.05). In the multivariable model, significant and independent proportions of the variance in BMC were explained by race, the age by sex interaction, calcium, and vigorous PA (all P 's<0.01). When height was used as the outcome variable, similar diet results were obtained; however, there was a sex by vigorous PA interaction, such that vigorous PA was associated with height only in the girls. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that the bone mass and height of growing youths are positively influenced by higher dietary intake of energy and dairy foods, along with sufficient amounts of vigorous PA. This hypothesis needs to be tested in randomized controlled trials.
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