Your dentist may soon have another job to do – testing you for osteoporosis in addition to looking for cavities! Some British researchers have a developed a method for detecting bone thinning in the lower jaw with x-rays. Currently people who are high risk are checked for osteoporosis with a test called a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). It is expensive and insurance coverage for it could be better. As an alternative these researchers have showed that software that can analyze dental X-rays may do just as well. They examined both the dental x-rays and DXA scans of over 600 women and found that the x-rays were able to detect osteoporosis in over half of the women with it. This research was in the journal Bone in December.
Of course preventing the development of osteoporosis altogether would be preferable to most people. But that may be more difficult to do if you also have acid reflux problems. New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association has evidence that use of some medications for acid reflux is associated with a greater chance of hip fractures possibly due to the drugs inhibiting the absorption of calcium. This study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine examined data from close to 150,000 people. Those who were taking proton pump inhibitors had a 44% higher chance of a hip fracture than those that weren’t. The risk was increased for those taking a higher dose and taking it for a longer period of time. So what do you do if you are high risk for osteoporosis and have bad acid reflux problems? I don’t know – I wish I did because I am high risk and can’t go without my Nexium without getting really sick.
At least there is some good news for those who want to increase their calcium intake and are concerned about weight gain. A report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published research showing that adults who consume whole dairy products tend to gain less weight over time than people who don’t. Then again this another one of those correlational studies that really don’t prove anything. All the women in the study were of normal weight to start with and other research has not shown any connection. So once again – be careful when listening to short health stories on the news or in magazines – they often don’t tell the whole story.
Another thing to be careful of is who is funding the research. Or who is influencing it. The FDA is considering letting food products with calcium and vitamin D state on their labels that they may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Orange juice companies who sell juice with calcium added have a lot to benefit from a label like this. Not that getting calcium from orange juice is bad but that alone is unlikely to prevent osteoporosis. Doesn’t do a lot of good for those of us with acid reflux problems either!
If you do get osteoporosis despite taking all precautions to prevent it – another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that a break from some osteoporosis drugs might be ok. It seems the drugs provide protection for some time after taking them.
But better yet – now that you are almost done reading this – get up and walk around or run up and down some stairs for a few minutes! Then drink a glass of milk. Or eat some cheese. Weight bearing exercise and regular calcium intake is still probably the best way to keep your bones healthy.
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