For Weight Watchers Only: Losing Weight Can Lead to Bone Fractures, according to Latest Study

The existing belief that a weight increase is an excellent way of protecting oneself from fracture has been found not to be true.  The latest study revealed that both losing weight and gaining some will increase the incidence of fracture in menopausal women.

Researchers, led by Dr Carolyn J Crandall of David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles says that there is a link between weight loss or weight gain and where the fracture is going to occur. The findings were published online January 27 in the BMJ

This is a pioneering effort which analyzed the connection between weight change and the specific part of the body where the fracture was supposed to take place in menopausal women.

During an interview with Medscape Medical News, Dr Crandall outlined the complete results. “Unintentional weight loss was associated with increased risk of hip and spine fractures, but in contrast, intentional weight loss was associated with a decreased risk of hip fractures and an increased risk of lower-limb fractures.”

She continued, “Weight gain was associated with a 10% increase in the risk of upper-limb fractures and an 18% increase in lower-limb fractures, compared with stable weight.” She added, “This increased risk for lower-limb fractures in women who gained weight has not been found in prior studies.”

The general belief that an increase in weight is one way of protecting oneself from fractures. The findings of this new study seem to indicate otherwise. “Because obesity is starting to emerge as a risk factor for fracture, we suspected that weight gain over time would emerge as a risk factor for fracture in our study. The results confirmed our suspicions,” Dr. Crandall remarked.


In an editorial accompanying the paper, Dr Juliet Compston (Cambridge Biomedical Campus, United Kingdom) explains the study “confirms and extends previous studies that showed that weight loss in postmenopausal women increases the risk for hip and other fragility fractures. Both unintentional and intentional weight loss were associated with increased risk, although this differed between sites.”

“The large size and long duration of this study made it possible to obtain new information about effects of weight change on risk of fracture at specific locations,” she adds.

And the finding in this study, “that weight gain, as well as weight loss, increases the risk of fracture, is consistent with recent studies that showed that obesity is associated with increased risk at some locations.”

Analyzing the data from from over 120,000 healthy postmenopausal US women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study and clinical trials, Dr. Crandall and her colleagues were able to come up with their findings.

The aim of the research was to analyze the extent of fracture following a change between the initial weight and year 3 of annual assessment.

Every year for 11 years, participants’ weight were recorded and asked to report any fractures that might have occurred in the upper and lower limbs, including those their spinal column and pelvic bones. Hip fractures were based from their medical records.

Body weight change was classified as follows: stable which is below 5 percent change from the initial weight; weight loss is 5 percent decrease from initial weight; and, weight gain if there is 5 percent increase or more based on their initial weight.



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