Research links homocysteine and fractures

Parallel studies conducted in Boston and the Netherlands found that people with high levels of homocysteine had double to quadruple the risk of suffering fractures, according to the papers published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers have identified a significant new risk factor for fractures in people with osteoporosis -- high levels of an amino acid that typically result from eating too little of certain nutrients.

Although researchers have yet to prove that the fractures are caused in part by high homocysteine levels, they suggest that seniors may be able to lower their levels -- and potentially lower their risk of fractures -- by eating more green leafy vegetables and fortified grains that contain folic acid, as well as vitamins B-6 and B-12, reports

According to the arguments in favor of homocysteine as a causal factor include the fact that, in individuals with homocystinuria, high homocysteine levels weaken the collagen of the bones, Kiel noted.

"The Dutch study didn't see a difference in bone density to go with an increase in fractures so the total amount of bone wasn't different," Raisz pointed out. "It may be the quality of the bone. One possibility is that high homocysteine levels cause bone of poorer quality to be made."

It's also possible that other, associated phenomena may be responsible, such as nutrition, low estrogen levels or some as yet unknown factor, Raisz added.

For the moment, more studies are needed to try to get at the underlying mechanisms at work.

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