Obesity increases risk of osteoporosis in men study finds, debunking old myth

CHICAGO — High body fat in men could increase the risk of breaking bones, according to a recent study. Researchers from the University of Chicago Medicine say higher fat is a risk factor for developing the bone condition osteoporosis in men.

The findings debunk a myth in healthcare that people with high body weight have high bone density and are at a lower risk of brittle bones. Because of this, patients with high body mass are less likely to be screened for osteoporosis.

“We found that higher fat mass was related to lower bone density, and these trends were stronger in men than women,” says Dr. Rajesh K. Jain in a press release. “Our research suggests that the effect of body weight depends on a person’s makeup of lean and fat mass, and that high body weight alone is not a guarantee against osteoporosis.”

The researchers looked at bone mineral density and the body composition of 10,814 people under 60 years who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2018. Findings point to a strong correlation between lean mass and bone mineral density in both men and women.

Surprisingly, another finding concludes that having a higher fat mass is associated with lower bone mineral density — especially in men.

“Health care providers should consider osteoporosis screening for patients with high body weight, especially if they have other risk factors like older age, previous fracture, family history, or steroid use,” Dr. Jain explains.

Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak and brittle. For many patients, even a mild fall or stressors (like bending over or coughing) can cause a fracture. In any person, bone is a living tissue that the body constantly breaks down and replaces. In patients with osteoporosis, the creation of new bone can’t keep up with the loss of old bone.

The study is published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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