07:40am Friday 29 May 2020

Obesity may explain reduced bone fracture worldwide

Abdominal fat is an important risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and the authors of the study are by no means recommending that women should gain abdominal fat to protect their bones.

While they do not yet have the data to prove it, the authors believe that the protective effect of abdominal fat in women probably relates to higher levels of oestrogen. Women with more abdominal fat tend to have higher levels of oestrogen, which protects against bone loss, and therefore fracture risk. 

The data come from the ongoing Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study (DOES), initiated in mid-1989 in the city of Dubbo, about 400 km northwest of Sydney.

The current study examined 1126 participants, 360 men and 766 women, over age 50, recruited to DOES after 2000, when whole body density scanning began. The findings revealed that those women in the top 25% of higher abdominal fat mass had a 40% lower risk of fracture than those with a lower abdominal fat mass. Put another way, each 1 kg less of abdominal fat in women increases their risk of fracture by 50%. There was no such trend seen in men.

Authors Dr Shuman Yang and Professor Tuan Nguyen from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research have published their findings, now online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology.

“The prevalence of obesity in Australia is not as high as in the US, so our findings relate to ‘moderate’ abdominal obesity when discussed in a global context,” said project leader Professor Tuan Nguyen.

“This study appears to be consistent with the fact that obesity levels are rising worldwide and at the same time fracture incidence is decreasing.”

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research was founded in 1963. Initially a research department of St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, it is now one of Australia’s largest medical research institutions with over 600 scientists, students and support staff. Garvan’s main research areas are: Cancer, Diabetes & Obesity, Immunology and Inflammation, Osteoporosis and Bone Biology and Neuroscience. Garvan’s mission is to make significant contributions to medical science that will change the directions of science and medicine and have major impacts on human health. The outcome of Garvan’s discoveries is the development of better methods of diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, prevention of disease.


Media enquiries should be directed to:
Alison Heather

Science Communications Manager

M: + 61 434 071 326

P: +61 2 9295 8128

E: a.heather “a” garvan.org.au

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