South Asian women may be more susceptible to osteoporosis and fractures in later life as they experience breakdown of bone tissues at a quicker rate, a first-of-its-kind study has found. Researchers from the University of Surrey in the UK examined the breakdown of bone tissue by osteoclast cells (bone resportion) in over 370 pre and post-menopausal and white Caucasian women in the UK.
Bone resorption is a natural process which enables the transfer of calcium from bone tissue into the bloodstream and
is required to allow bone to adapt itself to challenges and repair damage. However, if excessive, and not balanced by equivalent bone formation, this can be detrimental to bone health overtime. Monitoring the women over a 12-month period, researchers measured levels of ‘urinary N terminal telopeptide’, a by-product of bone resorption found in urine, to assess how much bone was being broken down.
They discovered that pre-menopausal South Asian women had higher levels of this by-product in their urine than their white Caucasian counterparts, indicating elevated levels of bone resorption than would be expected for their age.
Typically high levels of this by-product are only found in post-menopausal women, researchers said. This indicates that osteoclast cells in pre-menopausal South Asian women might be breaking down bones at a quicker rate than they are being reformed, making these women more susceptible to osteoporosis and fractures in later life. “When human bones break down at a quicker pace than what they can be re-formed, bone thinning may occur which can
negatively impact upon a person’s quality of life,” said Andrea Darling from the University of Surrey.
“What we have found is that pre-menopausal South Asian women have the same level of bone resorption as a woman who has been through the menopause,” Darling said. “We need to investigate further whether these women simply
have higher levels of both bone resorption and bone formation or if there is something more worrying occurring in their skeletal system, in terms of higher than expected bone resorption, increasing their susceptibility to bone diseases and fractures,” she said.
Researchers also examined Vitamin D levels of the participants and its impact on bone resorption. Vitamin D plays a key role in the human body, including helping the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus from food
which is vital for bone health. Researchers discovered that women whose Vitamin D levels fluctuated (ie had very high levels in summer but very low levels in winter) had higher levels of bone resorption than those whose levels remained consistent throughout the year. It was found that such a fluctuation in Vitamin D levels was more prevalent among white Caucasian women, which can be attributed to lifestyle choices (eg summer sunbathing).