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Is scoliosis caused by not drinking enough milk or eating too much junk food?

Dr. Baron S. Lonner

New York, NY

No. The most common form of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, is an inherited type of scoliosis. The specific genetic cause of the disorder has not been fully elucidated and in some individuals it may be a result of a spontaneous genetic mutation. There are other forms of scoliosis, such as neuromuscular scoliosis that is a result of muscular imbalance such as occurs with cerebral palsy. Nutritional deficiency may cause osteopenia or osteoporosis, loss of bone mineral density, but does not have any direct link to scoliosis.

Dr. Stephen Ondra

Chicago, IL

No. Scoliosis is a genetic or developmental disorder that causes a three dimensional deformity of the spine. It cannot be prevented but is treatable.

Dr. Robert S. Pashman

Los Angeles, CA

In extremely rare cases, scoliosis can be caused by dietary problems. In diseases where calcium is lacking, which can cause softening of the bone, scoliosis may be an infrequent finding in these patients. In the majority of patients who have scoliosis, what and how much they eat does not produce curvature of their spine. And, to my knowledge, junk food by itself has never caused curvature of the spine.

Dr. Patrick Bosch

Albuquerque, NM

In the vast majority of cases we cannot find a cause or reason why someone has scoliosis. There is no known vitamin/mineral or nutritional deficiency that leads to spinal deformity.

Dr. Scott J. Luhmann

St. Louis, MO

No, but both of these may impact the long-term health of the spine by decreasing the overall bone mass of the body. Low spinal bone mass as an adolescent can become magnified in one’s 60s, 70s, and 80s, and can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Dr. James Mooney, III

Detroit, MI

No.

Dr. Robert W. Molinari

Rochester, NY

No relationship between dietary intake and scoliosis has been established.

Dr. Jean-Pierre C. Farcy

New York, NY
M.M.C. Spine Center

No, idiopathic scoliosis which affects usually adolescents is not usually related to malnutrition or poor eating habits.

Dr. W. Christopher Urban

Glen Burnie, MD

Scoliosis is not linked to milk or calcium intake, and eating too much junk food does not cause it. The exact cause of scoliosis is still unknown. There has been substantial research into the causes of scoliosis, including genetic factors, tissue growth abnormalities, vertebral disorders, and central nervous system problems.

Dr. Thomas G. Lowe

Woodridge Orthopaedics & Spine Center, P.C.

Absolutely not. That probably does not play much of a role in development of scoliosis. The most common form of scoliosis which is called idiopathic scoliosis is genetically transmitted and tends to be found in a cousin, aunt or a niece in people who have been found to have scoliosis.

Dr. Dennis G. Crandall

Mesa, AZ

If junk food caused scoliosis, your doctor would have it worse than you do. We do not know what causes most types of scoliosis. The most common type, idiopathic, has a tendency to run in families.

Dr. David W. Polly, Jr.

Minneapolis, MN

Scoliosis is not caused by your behavior, it is a genetic condition (in your genes). But drinking more milk and eating less junk food is a very good idea!

Dr. John P. Lubicky

Chicago, IL
Shriner's Hospital for Children

No. Although some people have scoliosis that is associated with other underlying bone diseases that result in multiple fractures of the vertebrae and then deformity because of that, the usual kind of scoliosis is not linked with such a phenomenon. Also, ordinarily those who eat a regular diet are probably receiving the required amount of calcium that one would get from milk each day, so there really shouldn't be an abnormally low amount of calcium in the bones. Eating too much junk food is bad because it makes people gain weight and does not have good nutrient value to supply vitamins and minerals that are necessary to maintain your body. But there is no direct link between eating junk food and the development of scoliosis.

Dr. Christopher L. Hamill

Buffalo General HospitalBuffalo General Hospital

No.

Dr. John T. Smith

University of Utah Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Eating too much junk food may be bad for your health, but it is not a cause of scoliosis. A well balanced diet should be a part of every child's life, and eating right will give you strong bones. Nearly all children in the United States who eat a well-balanced diet get enough calcium in to provide energy for their growing bones and do not require additional calcium tablets or supplements. Weak bones in children are usually caused by significant medical problems such as neurologic disorders, metabolic problems, and certain well recognized conditions such as Ricketts.

If you do have scoliosis, then a well balanced diet can be especially helpful if you require surgery to correct your curve. The surgical treatment of scoliosis is like running a long, hard, race, and you need to be well nourished before beginning.

Dr. Michael F. O'Brien

Denver Orthopaedics

No. The cause of scoliosis is still poorly defined despite years of dedicated research and investigation. It is most likely a genetically transmitted disease whose inheritance is poorly understood. It often runs in families but may appear for the first time in an individual who has no family predisposition towards the condition.

Dr. Charles E. Johnston, II

Texas Scottish Rite Hospital Orthopedic Group

No, the cause is unknown in most cases, and strangely enough, scoliosis usually occurs in adolescents who are otherwise perfectly healthy.

Dr. Frank J. Schwab

New York, NY

There are many types of scoliosis. Although the cause of scoliosis is not entirely clear in many cases, eating junk food has not been shown to cause spinal deformity. A well balanced diet is very important and poor intake of calcium (such as through drinking milk) can lead to certain problems in the long run.

The commentary above recounts the experiences of these physicians. Medtronic invited them to share their stories candidly. Keep in mind that results vary; not every patient's response is the same. Talk with your doctor to learn more about any products that are mentioned above.

It is important that you discuss the potential risks, complications and benefits of spinal surgery with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your doctor's judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.

  • Published: June 20, 2002
  • Updated: April 19, 2010