December 21, 2000 

Fatty Diet Could Lead to Thin Bones


WASHINGTON - A fat-laden diet could lead not only to obesity and heart disease but to the thinning, fragile bones of osteoporosis, researchers said on Wednesday.

Mice fed a high-fat diet for seven months, less than half their life span, loss dramatic amounts of minerals from their bones, a team at the University of California Los Angeles reported.

They also lost 15 percent of the bone from their back legs, the study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, found.

``Until very recently, cholesterol was not considered important in bone health,'' Farhad Parhami, a cardiology researcher who led the study, said in a statement.

``We hope this study will begin to break new ground in better understanding the relationship between high cholesterol and osteoporosis.''

Parhami's team found in an earlier study that mice fed the high-fat diet, which raises their cholesterol, had many fewer bone-forming cells than mice in a normal diet.

``High cholesterol may decrease overall bone production,'' Parhami said. ``We may find that new more effective treatments for osteoporosis may involve a two-pronged approach, targeting both bone-building cells as well as the cells that disintegrate bone.''

Dr. Linda Demer, head of UCLA's Division of Cardiology, said the study ties in with others showing a link between high-fat diets and bone loss.

``The structures of bone and artery are very similar. Osteoporosis and heart disease may both be caused by an inflammatory response in the body, triggered by high cholesterol,'' she said.

``While high cholesterol triggers clogging of the arteries, it may also cause bone to disintegrate.''

She said a low-fat diet and popular drugs such as statins, which lower cholesterol, and antioxidants, which help prevent clogging of the arteries, might be used to prevent osteoporosis as well as heart disease.

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