Yet Another Potential Side Effect of Obesity: Osteoporosis

If you thought obese individuals had enough to worry about, such as a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma, among other conditions, researchers have recently added osteoporosis and other bone issues to this list.

According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over a third of American adults and about 17 percent of American children and teenagers are now considered obese, these latest studies connecting obesity with bone issues further reinforce our need to address this widespread problem.

One researcher who has spent years studying the connection between excess fat and bone loss is Dr. Miriam A. Bredella, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, and a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She summarizes, “obesity was once thought to be protective against bone loss. We have found that this is not true.”

In 2010, Dr. Bredella and her colleagues performed a study of 50 premenopausal women with an average body mass index (BMI) of 30. Results showed that the women who had more visceral fat, commonly known as belly fat, were more likely to show a decrease in bone mineral density, and also had a higher level of bone marrow fat. Dr. Bredella states, “our results showed that having a lot of belly fat is more detrimental to bone health than having more superficial fat or fat around the hips.”

Dr. Bredella and her research team performed a similar study in 2012, this time with men. The researchers evaluated 35 obese men with an average BMI of 36.5, and an average age of 34. Results of this study showed that the men who had the most total belly fat had less bone strength, determined by tests of stiffness and failure load. The study also found that “obese men with a lot of visceral fat had significantly decreased bone strength compared to men with low visceral fat, but similar BMI.”

Belly fat can be especially dangerous in other ways, as a body of previous research has associated it with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.

In 2013, however, Dr. Bredella and her team set out to examine the relationship between bone loss and other types of body fat, specifically high fat contents in the liver, blood and muscle tissue. They found that individuals that had high fat levels in these organs and tissues also had higher fat levels in their bone marrow, which is associated with an elevated risk of osteoporosis.

For this latest study, 106 men and women between the ages of 19 and 45 who were obese, but otherwise healthy, were analyzed. Results showed that those individuals with higher fat levels in their bone marrow had lower levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol (which has been associated with protection from heart disease), higher levels of triglycerides (the fats found in the blood), and a higher risk of bone fracture. Dr. Bredella explains, “bone marrow fat makes bones weak. If you have a spine that’s filled with fat, it’s not going to be as strong.”

These results combined paint a clear picture of some of the dangers of obesity in regards to the skeletal system, adding yet another health concern to the numerous other potential dangers that obese individuals face.

fatIf you are struggling with excess weight, you may be surprised at how much benefit you gain by simply cutting out sugars, refined grains and processed foods from your diet. Eat whole, nutritious foods and walk for just half an hour every day. From there, if you stick to a healthy diet, and increase your daily exercise, the pounds will continue to drop.

If you need additional help with managing your weight, it is worth it to see a natural health professional to develop an individual plan that can work for you – your current and future health is at stake.

-The Alternative Daily


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