There are many apparent differences between men and women. From reproductive organs to heart beats (believe it or not women’s heart beat slightly quicker) there are certain the physiology is different. According to new research, the spine is different, too.
Boys and girls are born with different measurements of the vertebrae – these are the bones that make up the spine.
By using MRIs, researchers from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles saw differences in boys and girls vertebral cross-sectional dimensions – this makes up the spines strength. Between males and females the cross-section was 10.6 percent smaller in newborn females than males.
“Human beings are the only mammals in which this difference is seen, and it is one of the few key physiological differences between the sexes,” said Vincente Gilsanz, director of Research Imaging at the Children’s Hospital.
“The reason could be that the spine has to move forward during pregnancy, so that the female can walk and maintain her center of gravity. Unfortunately, it also imparts a disadvantage in that it increases stress within the vertebrae for all physical activities, resulting in a great susceptibility for fractures later in life.”
Sex steroids, growth hormones and insulin-life growth factor may contribute to this difference, but an exact cause is unknown to researchers as of yet. Additionally, over the years women will accumulate less bone mass than men, putting them at higher risk for spinal injuries.
Gilsanz said girls are born with a predisposition to developing osteoporosis later in life. He said since bone development can be boosted with exercise and nutrition, customized health care could help prevent disease.
“This is an example of how traits that might predispose an individual to disease can be mitigated through personalized medicine and customized health care, beginning early in life,” he said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.