In recent years, researchers have found some evidence that your bones are healthier if you're carrying some extra weight. They say being overweight is protective against osteoporosis. But is this really true?
The reasoning behind this belief is that obesity stresses your bones. Stressing your bones is a good thing. It forces them to work to support the extra weight. And, like your muscles, making your bones work is good for them.
However, most of these studies looked at bone mineral testing scores to determine how healthy the bones were. Now studies are looking deeper. They're looking at the health of the bone marrow. Bone marrow, as you may know, is the soft, spongy stuff in the middle of the bone. It makes stem cells. And this is where we're starting to see different information about weight and bone health.
You see, stem cells in your bone turn into osteoblasts. These are the cells that build your bones. When researchers began looking at the health of the bone marrow, they began to see problems. All of the obese participants who had higher levels of fat in their liver, muscle tissue, and blood, also had fat in their bone marrow.
The lead author of the study, Mariam A. Bredella, MD, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, explained why this is significant. "In our study, we focused on bone marrow fat because that is where our stem cells can develop into osteoblasts - the cells responsible for bone formation - or fat cells. We also wanted to look at the relationship between bone marrow fat and other fat components, such as those in the liver and muscle."
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The researchers found that obesity caused the stem cells to produce more fat cells. So instead of forming osteoblasts that build the bone, the stem cells were turning into fat cells. In the long run, this is going to make bone weaker. And that's what the researchers found.
While the extra weight helps keep the bones active and strong, the long-term effect is weaker bones because there aren't as many osteoblasts laying down new, healthy bone.
The researchers also found that the more bone marrow fat you have, the more your risk of fracture goes up. Dr. Bredella explained this way, "Bone marrow fat makes bones weak. If you have a spine that's filled with fat, it's not going to be as strong."
So if you're overweight and think it's good for your bones, think again. It may help them in some ways, but only in the short term. In the long run, it's going to hurt you and your risk of breaking a bone will go up. So it's time to lose weight. If you'd like help in doing so, read this article on losing weight.
But don't just lose the weight. Take steps to protect your bones as well. Exercise is crucial for healthy bones. So is taking the right nutrients. One of the best supplements I've seen for protecting your bones is Ultimate Bone Support. Not only has it helped women reverse their osteoporosis (when coupled with an exercise program), but it's helped them prevent fractures as well.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND.
Miriam A. Bredella, Corey M. Gill, Anu V. Gerweck, Melissa G. Landa, Vidhya Kumar, Scott M. Daley, Martin Torriani, and Karen K. Miller. Ectopic and Serum Lipid Levels Are Positively Associated with Bone Marrow Fat in Obesity Radiology. Radiology, 2013; DOI: 10.1148/radiol.13130375.