Bone health

Weight loss weighs heavily on bones


Unintentional weight loss in post-menopausal women can very quickly increase fracture risk, a new study has revealed.

The study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, found fracture risk can rise as early as one year following weight loss and still be present after five years.

Co-author Professor Lyn March, consultant rheumatologist and Liggins Professor of Rheumatology and Musculosketal Epidemiology Medicine at The University of Sydney’s Northern Clinical School, said the study emphasised the need for prompt fracture risk assessment and appropriate risk management.

She said it was important to consider bone heal, fracture and falls risks in older women who lose weight unexpectedly.

“Traditionally we will think of cancer and other nasties and do not necessarily address the loss of muscle mass and sarcopenia and associated bone loss,” she told the limbic.

“This is an important study as it raises awareness about the importance of healthy bones, muscles and joints for healthy ageing.”

Increased fracture risk in postmenopausal women isn’t a new concept, although this is the first time researchers have been able to pinpoint a time frame at which it occurs.

“Our results confirm previous reports of an association between weight loss and increased fracture risk in postmenopausal women and add novel information about the time frame in which fracture occurs,” the authors wrote.

“We have shown for the first time that fracture risk at the hip, spine and clavicle increases significantly within one year following the year in which unintentional weight loss was reported and that the cumulative risk of these fractures, as well as those of the wrist, rib and pelvis, is significantly increased at five years of follow-up.”

Professor March said the study did not advocate the use of medication in a preventive capacity.

“While there is no evidence to support bisphosphonates in this setting prophylactically, it should be a trigger at the very minimum in all those aged 70 years and over to check whether they are osteoporotic on bone density and hence eligible for PBS subsidised anti-resportive therapy,” she said.

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