(RxWiki News) The common wisdom is that we need to get lots of calcium for healthy bones. But a new theory, based on studying deer antlers, challenges the role of calcium in bone growth.
Spanish researchers have proposed that low calcium is a consequence rather than a cause of osteoporosis.
They believe that the true problem is a lack of manganese, a mineral that helps calcium be absorbed into bone. Without manganese, the bones don't get as much calcium, and osteoporosis develops.
"Take preventative measures against osteoporosis for strong bones."
The theory comes from researchers at the Research Institute of Hunting Resources, at at the University of Castilla-La Mancha. Their study was published in Frontiers of Bioscience, but needs to be confirmed by additional research and the scientific community.
In their paper, the researchers write that deer antlers are an “ideal experimental model” to study bones, because they're easily accessible and grow quickly.
The root of their theory lies in a tough winter for Spanish deer, back in 2005. It was a cold winter, and the researchers observed a dramatic increase in broken antlers.
Analyzing the broken antlers, they determined that the antlers grew weaker that year because of manganese depletion. The plants that the deer fed upon decreased their manganese concentrations, in response to the stressful cold.
The team's previous studies in antlers showed that manganese is essential for calcium absorption. This led to the hypothesis of the role of manganese in human bones.
They believe that manganese might be released from bone during bone remodeling. That's the process where bone tissue is removed from the skeleton and new bone is being formed. This is happening to 10 percent of the adult skeleton each year.
The hypothesis continues that the body prioritizes the manganese elsewhere in the body, and thus it is not available to help absorb calcium into the bone. Ultimately, osteoporosis and fractures result.
The hypothesis has not yet been proven in humans. But if evidence supports it, the theory could point to a new direction for the study and treatment of osteoporosis.
If you've been advised by your physician to take calcium supplements, keep taking them until otherwise directed.
The study was published in January 2012.