Yes, You Can Grow Stronger Bones

Growth hormone injections boost bones in obese women

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

(RxWiki News) It's common for women to lose bone mass and density as they age. Women with extra weight around their bellies are at increased risk for osteoporosis. Can growth hormones help them?

That's what Dr. Miriam A. Bredella wanted to know. She dispelled the idea that extra weight protects against bone loss in her previous research, and found that abdominal obesity is associated with weaker bones and low growth hormone. Her new study found that injecting growth hormone might help obese women increase bone formation.

"Ask your doctor about your risk for osteoporosis."

Osteoporosis is characterized by the loss of bone density. It happens when the body does not form enough new bone tissue, which makes bones brittle and prone to fracture. Osteoporosis is most common in menopausal and post-menopausal women.

Dr. Bredella, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, says that women with abdominal obesity have low bone mineral density and reduced growth hormone levels.

Her study involved 79 premenopausal women who were abdominally obese. Thirty-two percent of the women had osteopenia – low bone mineral density that's not yet osteoporosis - and one woman had full osteoporosis.

The experimental group in the study received growth hormones for a period of six months.

At the end of the trial, the women who had the growth hormone treatment had increased bone formation, increased bone marrow fat and muscle mass, and higher levels of vitamin D, a sign of healthier bones.

The women who had the greatest increase in bone formation, and those who had high vitamin D, also had the greatest loss of abdominal fat.

That means that growth hormone injections may also help women lose weight. Dr. Bredella said the findings might someday lead to a new treatment for bone loss and obesity, but the technique needs more research.

The results of the study were reported at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in November 2011.

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Review Date: 
December 1, 2011
Last Updated:
December 5, 2011