Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Genetics and osteoporosis

Many things affect your odds of developing osteoporosis. But your genetic and racial background can be significant risk factors. Osteoporosis does run in families, so if your family has a history of the condition, it is even more important for you to take steps now to have healthy bones throughout your life.
Scientists Narrowing in on Genetic Testing

Scientists are steadily gaining an understanding of which genes affect bones. A day will come when genetic testing will be able to rank an individual’s risk for osteoporosis. It may not be too far in the future. But, even if you knew that your risk of osteoporosis is low, it is still worth it to keep up activities that promote bone health -- such as exercise and eating calcium-rich foods -- because those things often reduce the risks of other diseases, as well.

Does Race Affect the Risk of Osteoporosis?
Although there are racial differences, the disease occurs in all racial groups.
However, generally, whites have a greater risk of bone fracture than Asians and Asians have a greater risk than blacks.
Making racial comparisons is complicated because people of different races generally differ from each other by more than just their genes. Besides the genetic differences, they may have very different diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors. For this reason, studies that investigate the effects of diet and exercise on bone health must compare people of similar racial makeup for the study conclusions to be valid.
The poor logic of this statement was well illustrated by a study that was part of a large study conducted by T. Colin Campbell and colleagues from Cornell University. His group measured the bone mineral density (BMD) of morethan 800 Chinese women from five different counties in China. They found that the women with the greatest BMD resided in a pastoral district where milk was a common part of the diet. Their milk consumption resulted in significantly greater consumption of calcium, phosphorus, and protein. So, with all things being genetically similar, increased intake of these nutrients translated into better bones.

The Bottom Line
Regardless of your family and genetic risk, it is still beneficial to to maintain healthy behaviors that are known to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, such as lifting weights and eating adequate amounts of calcium-rich foods.

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