Arm fat can reveal women and men at risk for spinal fracture

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Measuring total fat mass in the arms could potentially predict which women and men over 50 are at risk of a vertebral fracture, according to research presented at the 26th European Congress of Endocrinology, held from May 11 to 14 in Stockholm. The findings could help identify high-risk individuals with a simpler and cheaper method and could influence the design of their exercise plans.

Osteoporosis is a common disease among the elderly, but it is also among the most undiagnosed and untreated medical conditions in the world. Many people have no noticeable symptoms of osteoporosis until they experience an injury or fracture, most commonly occurring in the spine, known as vertebral fractures or vertebral fractures.

Imaging techniques, such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), are used to measure bone mineral density (BMD), while trabecular bone score (TBS) assesses bone quality and predicts new fractures, independent of BMD. However, the effect that body fat has on bone health is still unclear.

To investigate this, researchers from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece examined 14 men and 101 women, without osteoporosis and with an average age of about 62 years, and found that those with excess body fat – regardless of their body mass index (BMI) ) – had low bone quality (low TBS) in their spine. In addition, the more abdominal fat located deep in the abdomen and around the internal organs, the lower the quality of the spongy bone of the spine (or trabecular bone).

The researchers then looked at the distribution of body fat under the skin and found that individuals with higher fat mass in the arms were more likely to have lower bone quality and strength in the spine.

“Surprisingly, we have found for the first time that body composition of the arms, in particular the fat mass of the arms, is negatively associated with bone quality and vertebral strength,” says senior author Professor Eva Kassi.

“This could mean that the subcutaneous fat of the arm, which can be easily estimated even with the simple and inexpensive skinfold caliper method, could emerge as a useful index of spinal bone quality, and potentially predict the risk of vertebral fractures .”

She added: “It should be noted that visceral fat – which we have found to be strongly correlated with low bone quality – is the more hormonally active component of total body fat. It produces molecules called adipocytokines that cause low-grade inflammation, so the increased inflammatory status likely has a negative effect on bone quality.”

Professor Kassi acknowledges that larger studies are needed to confirm the link between arm fat and the risk of vertebral fractures. “While our results remain robust after controlling for age and weight, we will now increase the number of participants and expand the age range to include younger adults between the ages of 30 and 50, as well as more men,” she said.

“Additionally, using arm fat mass loss as a benchmark, we will try to determine the most effective exercise routine that not only targets the visceral fat, but also focuses on the upper part of the body, so that these adults with higher risk losing their weight.” arm fat and achieve a beneficial effect on the bone quality of the vertebrae.”

Provided by the European Society of Endocrinology

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