Bone Loss From The Belly

Excess fat under abdominal muscles can contribute to bone loss

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A recent study found that excess internal abdominal fat can put women at a higher risk for osteoporosis. Previously, it was thought that obesity protected against bone loss.

Obesity - defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more - causes many negative health issues including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea, and joint diseases. Now, according to radiologist Miriam A. Bredella, M.D., "Abdominal obesity needs to be included as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone loss."

To come to this conclusion, Dr. Bredella and her team analyzed the abdominal fats of 50 premenopausal women with a mean BMI of 30 (the number considered by the CDC to classifysomeone as obese). Three different fats were evaluated: subcutaneous fat, which lies just under the skin; visceral fat, found deep beneath the muscles in the abdominal cavity; and total abdominal fat. Employing MR spectroscopy (MRS) exams and quantitative computed tomography (QCT), the researchers then evaluated the bone marrow fat and bone mineral density of the L4 vertebra in each woman. 

The test's results showed increased bone marrow fat and decreased bone mineral density in those women with more visceral fat. These findings show that "having a lot of belly fat is more detrimental to bone health than having more superficial fat or fat around the hips," says Bredella.

Visceral fat is already considered dangerous, due to its association with increased risk for heart disease. Now we know, according to Dr. Bredella, that "it is important for the public to be aware that excess belly fat is a risk factor for bone loss, as well as heart disease and diabetes."

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 10 million Americans are estimated to have osteoporosis while another 34 million have low bone mass, which puts them at risk for the disease. Consequently, Bredella and her team are continuing their research with a study to determine if belly fat also contributes to bone loss and osteoporosis in men.

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Review Date: 
December 15, 2010
Last Updated:
December 17, 2010