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Fighting fractures as we age.

the amino acid homocysteine is produced upon the chemical breakdown of certain proteins in the body. Levels increase with age, and as they do they can cause damage to blood vessels and plaque to build up in the arteries.

In addition to heart disease risk, it is well documented that very high homocysteine blood levels are related to osteoporosis in people with a genetic disorder known as homocystinuria. But two recent studies reveal a possible connection between moderately elevated homocysteine levels and fracture risk, particularly in people over age 55.

In a study that looked at the widely-known Framingham data gathered over the past 20 years from nearly 2,000 men and women, people in the group with the highest levels of homocysteine had two to four times more hip fractures than those in the other groups. In the Netherlands, a second study found similar results in an even larger population sample.

Notably, the studies reveal no link between homocysteine levels and bone mineral density (BMD). Clearly there is another mechanism that warrants further study, but it is believed that homocysteine may interfere with the collagen molecules that link together to provide a strong "matrix" for calcium to sit in healthy bones. It's possible to have normal BMD and fragile bones--if calcium amounts are inadequate and the bone matrix is weak.

Runners and those who perform regular load-bearing exercise are already utilizing one powerful strategy for keeping bones strong. But as we age, this battle gets harder to fight. An abundance of the B group of vitamins can attenuate the build-up of homocysteine in the blood. It's good idea to consume a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid (vitamin B9), 1.5 to 2 mg of vitamin B6 and 2.4 to 6 mcg of vitamin B12. It's too early to say whether that could reduce fracture risk in those over age 55, but with further study this important new link between elevated homocysteine levels and hip fracture could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures in older populations.

(Harvard Women's Health Watch, 2005, Vol. 12, No. 6, p. 7; New Eng. J. Med., 2004, Vol. 350, No. 20, pp. 2033-2049)
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Title Annotation:risk factors of homocysteine
Publication:Running & FitNews
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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