Vitamin B-12 levels linked to bone loss in aging women

March 03, 2004

Chevy Chase, MD, March 3, 2004 - Older women with low levels of vitamin B-12 are more likely to experience rapid bone loss, according to new research published this month in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The new findings help to establish the importance of vitamin B-12 in the bone health of women as they age.

Vitamin B-12, which is found in animal products, such as meat, shellfish, milk, cheese and eggs, is needed to produce red blood cells and maintain a healthy nervous system. Still, little is known about the vitamin's affects on skeletal health, specifically among aging women. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, led by Dr. Katie Stone, studied whether elderly women with low levels of vitamin B-12 suffer from more rapid bone loss.

Through a random, cohort study of 83 women over the age of 64 who participated in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures, researchers archived baseline serum samples and measured hip bone mineral density in study subjects during two and six year follow-up examinations. Test results demonstrated that after adjusting for age, weight and clinic site, women with the lowest levels of B-12 (below 280 pg/ml) experienced significantly more rapid hip bone loss than women with higher levels of B-12 (above 280 pg/ml).

"While deficiencies in vitamin B-12 are uncommon among younger women, many older women suffer from vitamin B-12 deficiency," explains Dr. Stone. "Our research shows that the women with the lowest levels of vitamin B-12 are at an increased risk for bone loss in their hips, which could lead to fractures. We knew that vitamin B-12 benefited the nervous system, but our findings suggest that it may also benefit bone health." The authors note that these results indicate that for some elderly women, simple dietary supplements of vitamin B-12 or multivitamins or dietary modification may slow the rates of bone loss.

"A larger, randomized trial would be needed to determine whether treatment with supplemental vitamin B-12 could reduce rates of bone loss in elderly women," notes Dr. Steve Cummings, one of the investigators on the study.
-end-
JCEM is one of four journals published by The Endocrine Society. Founded in 1916, The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to research on hormones, and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Endocrinologists are specially trained doctors who diagnose, treat and conduct basic and clinical research on complex hormonal disorders such as diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, obesity, hypertension, cholesterol and reproductive disorders. Today, The Endocrine Society's membership consists of over 11,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students, in more than 80 countries. Together, these members represent all basic, applied, and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. To learn more about the Society, and the field of endocrinology, visit the Society's web site at http://www.endo-society.org.

The Endocrine Society

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