News roundup

Novel Osteoporosis Drug Could Change Treatment: Study  “A new medication for osteoporosis prompts the body to rebuild bone and could potentially strengthen the skeleton against fractures, researchers report. The experimental drug, romosozumab, frees the body’s ability to stimulate bone production by blocking biochemical signals that naturally inhibit bone formation, explained Dr. Michael McClung, founding director of the Oregon Osteoporosis Center in Portland, Ore.”

Comment: Researchers have been interested in looking at more ways to treat osteoporosis, particularly through therapies that are able to build bone in addition to stopping bone loss. This promising new drug offers the advantage of increasing bone density better than the only bone-building medication currently available to osteoporosis patients (teriparatide, marketed as Forteo). But this was a phase 2 clinical trial, where the main aims of the trial are to determine how effective the drug is as a treatment and also to check how safe the drug is and whether there are any major side effects. The number of participants in a phase 2 trial is not very large — this study had just over 400 patients. And the trial lasted only for 12 months, which may not be enough time to monitor for side effects and the effects of long-term treatment (it is important to know how the drug will behave if patients are taking it for several years). Also crucial to osteoporosis patients, is whether the drug can prevent fractures. Patients were not eligible to participate in this study if they had suffered from previous fractures so we also don’t have any data on how well this drug works in osteoporosis patients who have already had a fracture and are at high risk of future fractures. In conclusion, more studies need to be done before this drug can be safely prescribed as a  treatment for osteoporosis and data from larger phase 3 and phase 4 trials will help answer some of these questions. (This graphic gives a good overview of the different phases of a clinical trial.)

Childhood Fractures May Indicate Bone-Density Problems “A recent study at Mayo Clinic, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, indicates that certain types of fractures may have implications for a child’s long-term bone health. The study found evidence that children and adolescents whose forearm fractures occurred due to mild trauma had lower bone strength compared to other children. Lower bone strength may predispose children to fractures resulting from weakened bone (osteoporotic fracture) later in life.”

Comment: This is an important study which suggests that low bone strength in childhood may not only have negative consequences later in life, but can also result in fractures during childhood itself. Healthy bone development during our early years is vital to preventing osteoporosis later in life. We don’t know for certain whether low bone density in childhood can predispose someone to osteoporosis, but this is an area that needs more attention and should be studied. This study also calls upon health professionals to recognize that not all fractures in children and young adults are normal and it is important to investigate fracture causes, especially when the fracture results from mild trauma.

Walk More to Cut Heart Attack and Stroke Risk, Study Suggests “Walking more is a simple way for people at high risk for type 2 diabetes to greatly reduce their risk of heart disease, a new study suggests.”

Comment: In our previous news roundup we posted about exercise intensity and how increasing the intensity of exercise offers the most benefit in terms of optimal health. But don’t be discouraged if you have trouble increasing the intensity of your exercise — any exercise is better than none. This new study in people with pre-diabetes shows that walking helps to decrease risk of heart disease.  Simply increasing the amount of time you walk will lower your risk even further. So if you are unable to increase the intensity of your exercise, gradually increase the amount of exercise that you do instead. And remember that walking is one of the best exercises for maintaining bone strength as well.

News roundup

new-magazines-1110330-mIn an effort to continue to bring our readers the most relevant news regarding bone health and related issues, we’re starting a new blog post category called ‘News roundup.’ We’ll provide you with the links to interesting research and news articles. Even though we may not be able to break down the evidence and evaluate the articles fully, we will comment on each news article briefly. And of course, larger  and more significant studies will continue to receive attention in the form of single blog posts.

Here’s what we’ve got for you this week:

Osteoarthritis Patients Will Benefit from Exercise That Strengthens Bones: “The postmenopausal women who may be at risk of osteoporosis (bone loss), as well as at risk of osteoarthritis, can safely carry out progressive high-impact training to maintain bone health and physical function. This was found out in a study conducted in the Department of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.”

Comment: This is an interesting study which shows that high-impact training done in a progressive manner, increases bone density after one year. However keep in mind that this was a very small study — 36 people in the high-impact exercise group and 40 people in the control group. In addition, the participants had mild knee osteoarthritis, which means the results can’t be applied to people with more advance osteoporosis or osteoarthritis. Our advice for now is to continue to stick to low-impact exercises if you have osteoporosis and work with a certified exercise professional if you would like to incorporate more bone-friendly exercises into your exercise routine.

Experts warn: increase in Hong Kong’s over 70s population to cause dramatic rise in hip fractures by 2025: “A new report issued today by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) shows that broken bones due to osteoporosis pose a major and growing health problem in the Asia-Pacific. With its rapidly ageing population, Hong Kong will be among the areas most affected in the near future.”

Comment: This is an interesting report because it mirrors what is happening in many countries across the world. Dr Andrew Ho, President, Osteoporosis Society of Hong Kong, says “Osteoporosis has been a major public health problem in Hong Kong but this disease has not received due attention from the policy makers as compared to other chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac or cerebrovascular diseases and dementia.” Canada is in a similar situation as well. According to Osteoporosis Canada, osteoporosis-related fractures are more common than heart attacks, stroke, and breast cancer combined. The sad reality is that many of these fractures are not diagnosed and patients often suffer multiple fractures before osteoporosis is identified as the culprit. The good news is that slowly, we are seeing more and more fracture programs and osteoporosis specialists making it a priority to ensure that patients are accurately diagnosed. Visit Osteoporosis Canada’s website to learn about their initiatives to tackle the growing osteoporosis problem in Canada.

For Fitness, Intensity Matters: “the lesson that seemed to emerge most persistently from the fitness-related studies published this year was that intensity matters, especially if you wish to complete your workout quickly.”

Comment: This article provides a good overview of exercise studies published this year. The common thread between most of these exercise studies was that the amount of effort you spend exercising may matter more than the time you spend exercising. For people who do not have osteoporosis and have no other health issues, consider increasing the intensity of your workouts to get the most health benefits out of your exercise. But if you have osteoporosis or a heart condition, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, high blood pressure or any other bone or joint condition, you should talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program and before engaging in high-intensity or high-impact exercises.