Might the demise of squatting in China explain a meteoric rise in hip fractures since 1990?
That’s the notion advanced by Dr. Steven Cummings, a University of California, San Francisco, epidemiologist and osteoporosis researcher, who cited the recent drop in the popularity of squatting as a possible explanation for why hip fracture rates among Beijing residents rose a startling fourfold between 1990 and 2006, a rise that occurred during a period when fracture rates fell in many other locations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong.
The rise in fractures in Beijing far exceeded what could have been expected if bone mineral density levels dropped during the period, and no evidence exists that bone mineral density fell during the 16 years studied. In addition, fractures rose despite overall increases in weight among the Chinese, a development that should have led to somewhat denser bones and a reduced hip fracture rate.The lack of any other satisfactory explanation led Dr. Cummings to consider squatting, a posture traditional in China and other eastern countries for people relaxing, eating, or toileting. Squatting, he noted a week ago at the annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research in Toronto, provides “open style” exercise that involves all the muscles of the lower extremities and lower back, may improve balance, may reduce the risk of falls, may help a person control their descent during a fall, and may increase bone mineral density.
—Mitchel Zoler (on Twitter @mitchelzoler)