Bone loss in women may be explained


Washington, D.C.: Controversy continues to haunt those who advocate the use of estrogen to prevent bone loss in women. Not enough scientific proof has been established to confirm whether such therapy leads to breast cancer.

Equally not enough is known about the mechanism the body employs to utilize estrogen in warding off osteoporosis. Researchers at the Veterans Medical Center in Indianapolis say they have solved the mystery: A drop of estrogen, they declare, leads to an overproduction of bone-scavenger cells, which carve pits and craters throughout the skeleton. The result is osteoporosis, a condition in which bones break easily and spinal structure loses its vitality.

Lack of estrogen, they add, stimulates the production of interleukin-6, one of the important chemicals in the immune system. The excess interleukin-6 overstimulates the growth of cells called osteoclasts, which normally seek out and remove old bone cells. When estrogen levels drop, the balance between osteoclasts and osteoblasts is disturbed. The study concludes that estrogen helps to suppress the effects of interleukin-6, which helps to keep bone formation and bone destruction in balance.

In contrast, many nutritionally oriented physicians and nutritionists believe a diet rich in calcium and magnesium can contribute to enhancing the effect of low levels of estrogen that the body is capable of producing even after menopause.

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