Fat in Organs Linked to Osteoporosis Risk

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A new study reports that higher volumes of fat in liver, muscle, and blood could resort to weakened bones.

"Lipids and lipoproteins are emerging as important regulators of skeletal physiologic characteristics and have been shown to inhibit osteoblast and to enhance osteoclast differentiation and survival," the authors write.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School discovered that people with higher amounts of fat in these particular areas also had higher quantities of fat withinosteoporosis their bone marrow. Fat in bone marrow has been associated to weakened bones, in previous research studies. Stem cells found in bone marrow can either turn into fat cells or osteoblasts (which are cells that are vital to bone formation).

"Bone marrow fat makes bones weak. If you have a spine that's filled with fat, it's not going to be as strong, said study researcher and associate professor at Harvard and a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Miriam A. Bredella, M.D.

The study, which has gone on to be published in the journal Radiology, featured the use of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy on 106 men and women between ages 19 and 45 in order to determine how much fat was in their livers, muscle, and bone marrow. All study patient participants were relatively overweight, but healthy during the course of the study.

Researchers discovered that those with high levels of fat in their livers and muscle had more fat in their bone marrow. This comes even after taking into account determinants such as physical activity level and body mass index. And those who were found to have more fat in their bone marrow were more likely to experience some type of bone fracture.

Additionally, the study also found a tie between more or less favorable HDL cholesterol and lower levels of fat in bone marrow.

The researchers also discovered that high levels of triglycerides in the blood (which is a type of fat) were also connected with higher levels of bone marrow fat.

The New York Times cited previous research in mice that pointed to exercise potentially having a significant impact in making stem cells in bone marrow turn to bone and not fat.

While a another study, also carried out by Bredella, and presented in 2010 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, revealed that visceral fat (which is the fat that surrounds the organs) is associated with reductions in women's bone mineral density.

"Because bone marrow fat is known to be inversely related to [bone mineral density], these results support the notion that ectopic and serum lipid levels are influenced by the same additional factors as bone marrow or may exert negative effects on bone," the study concludes.


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