Obesity Linked to Bad Bones

Excess body fat may contribute to poor bone health, according to a new study of 115 18- and 19-year-old women. The finding adds to the growing list of obesity-related health problems, which already includes an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and others.

In the study, researchers conducted three-dimensional bone scans of women with normal body fat (less than 32 percent) and high body fat (greater than 32 percent). Women with high body fat had bones that were 8 percent to 9 percent weaker than those with normal body fat.

While it’s not known exactly why excess fat is bad for bone health, animal studies have found that obese rats produce more fat cells than bone cells in bone marrow, which may explain the weakening.

The finding could be particularly damaging for obese children, whose bones are still developing. Childhood obesity, researchers said, could have a lasting negative impact on the skeleton.

More than 64 percent of U.S. adults, and 16 percent of children, are obese.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
It’s no mystery that carrying around extra weight has many far-reaching implications on your physical and emotional health, and this link to bone weakness is just the tip of the iceberg.

Most of you know that two out of three U.S. adults, and one out of three kids, are overweight. Another 32 percent of adults, and 17 percent of kids, are obese, so this is impacting a tremendous number of people.

For children, peak bone mass during childhood and adolescent years is one of the major contributing factors to osteoporosis. So this makes building strong and healthy bones that much more critical during these early years of development.

The good news is that exercise -- running, jumping, and doing other types of active play -- is one of the best tools to help your kids build excellent bone mass early on. This, of course, will also help them to stave off obesity, or to lose weight if they need to.

Adults who are overweight or obese can also benefit two-fold from exercise. Aside from the weight loss, exercise has been linked to improvements in bone mass in this age group as well.

The Hormone Connection

Obesity impacts your bone health in a number of ways, but one is most certainly linked to your delicate hormonal balance.

Your ability to burn fat is regulated by very powerful hormones, the most significant of which is leptin. When leptin in your brain is low, it is an indication that you need to eat more and store more fat.

If you eat a diet that causes surges in leptin -- one that’s high in sugars and grains -- your body can become resistant to leptin’s signals, just as it can become resistant to insulin (and then become diabetic).

Low leptin signaling will tell your body to store more fat, leading you to gain weight and eventually become obese. But leptin impacts much more than your weight.

During leptin-resistance, your brain is telling your body to eat more and store more fat, but there is a miscommunication about where to put all of the excess fat. Some of it will be stored in your abdomen and liver, which throws your liver’s function off-kilter and contributes to the breakdown of your muscle and bone -- causing weakness and osteoporosis.

As said by Dr. Ron Rosedale, MD, one of the leading experts on leptin:

“The communication and knowledge of where to put calcium is also disrupted. Calcium is deposited in your blood vessels instead of your bone, which contributes to osteoporosis while calcifying and hardening your arteries.”

So not only does eating a diet full of sugars and grains cause you to gain weight, but it can directly lead to increased problems with your bone health.

How to Lose Weight and Strengthen Your Bones

You and your children alike can use the following tips to return to a healthy weight and support your bone health at the same time.
  • Increase your intake of omega-3 fats (from krill oil) while decreasing your intake of omega-6 fats (from vegetable oils). Too many omega-6 fats, and too few omega-3, has been linked to low bone density.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin K. It serves as the biological "glue" that helps plug the calcium into your bone matrix. Green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin K, but even better is natto, a fermented soy food that I personally eat nearly every day (it has the highest concentration of vitamin k in the human diet).
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