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INTRODUCTION: Poor cognitive function and osteoporosis commonly co-exist in later life. In women, this is often attributed to post-menopausal estrogen loss. However, a common early life origin for these conditions and the associations between cognitive function and bone mineral density (BMD) in childhood have not previously been explored. We examined these relationships at age 6-7 years in the Southampton Women's Survey (SWS) mother-offspring cohort. METHODS: Child occipitofrontal circumference (OFC), a proxy for brain volume, intelligence quotient (IQ) [Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence] and visual recognition and working memory [CANTAB® Delayed Matching to Sample (DMS) and Spatial Span Length (SSP), respectively] were assessed. Whole-body-less-head (WBLH) and lumbar spine dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry [Hologic Discovery] (DXA) were performed to measure bone area (BA), bone mineral content (BMC), BMD and bone mineral apparent density (BMAD). Linear regression was used to examine associations between age and sex standardized variables (β represent standard deviation (SD) difference per SD of cognitive function). RESULTS: DXA was performed in 1331 children (mean (SD) age 6.8 (0.33) years, 51.5 % male), with OFC, IQ, DMS and SSP assessed in 1250, 551, 490 and 460, respectively. OFC (β = 0.25 SD/SD, 95%CI 0.20,0.30), IQ (β = 0.11 SD/SD, 95%CI 0.02,0.19), and DMS (β = 0.11, SD/SD, 95%CI 0.01,0.20) were positively associated with WBLH BA, with similar associations for lumbar spine BA. OFC and DMS were also positively associated with WBLH BMC, but only OFC was associated with BMD (WBLH: β = 0.38 SD/SD, 95%CI 0.33,0.43; LS: β = 0.19 SD/SD, 95%CI 0.13,0.24). CONCLUSION: Childhood brain volume was positively associated with measures of skeletal size and BMD, whereas IQ and memory were associated only with skeletal size. These findings suggest that common early life determinants for skeletal growth and BMD and cognitive function should be explored to identify potential early-life approaches to preventing osteoporosis and cognitive decline.

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Bone mineral density, Cognition, Height, Intelligence quotient, Occipitofrontal circumference