The Better Bones Blog

by Dr. Susan Brown, PhD.

Update on prunes reversing bone loss

It is September 13, 2009, and I am at the largest U.S. meeting of bone researchers (the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research meetings in Denver), and I am pleased to give you a follow-up report on prunes and their amazing ability to reverse bone loss.

 

At this year’s meeting, Professor Bahram Arjmandi and colleagues presented hot-breaking research findings on their one-year human trial testing the potential of prunes to reverse bone loss in postmenopausal women. As you might recall from earlier blogs, Dr. Arjmandi is studying 144 osteopenic postmenopausal women, simply giving them 100 grams of dried prunes daily (10-12 prunes each day) and looking for changes in bone mineral density.

 

The early data is in, and it looks good! The first data from the year-long trial was presented today at the ASBMR Meeting, and the findings include a significant increase in ulna and spine bone mineral density in the women who ate the prunes. As Dr. Arjmandi and colleagues write, “The findings of this one-year study confirm our earlier observation that dried plum has the ability to reverse bone loss.”

 

While the prune-associated hip bone density changes are not yet tabulated, Dr. Arjmandi has high expectations. Previously, he reported several cases showing hip bone density increases from prunes to be even greater than the spinal density gains.

 

Needless to say, I will keep you posted on the hip density increases as they are published. In the meantime, why not share with me and all readers your favorite recipes for adding 10-12 prunes to your daily diet?

 

Encouraging data on declining hip fractures

Let’s face it: the number one fear of most people with osteoporosis is fracturing a hip, and for good reason. Hip fractures are physically and financially debilitating, and may even shorten your lifespan. But new research gives us reason to be hopeful: the U.S. hip fracture rate is falling.

This may come as a surprise considering the inflammatory headlines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services only weeks ago, declaring dramatic increases in osteoporosis-linked fractures. That data would strike fear into the heart of any woman with a less-than-average T-score! But while it’s true that a larger number of fractures are being diagnosed today than years ago, the rate of fractures — adjusted to the population — is actually shrinking.

Specifically, the reports are as follows:

• Between 1993 and 2003 hospitalizations for hip fracture decreased by 5% and the age-adjusted rates of hip fracture for women and men fell by about 20%.  This is data from the US Nationwide Impatient Sample. (Gehlbach et al. 2007)

• From 1985 through 2005 the Canadian hip fracture rate, adjusted by age, fell by 32% in women and 25% in men. (Leslie et al. 2009)

From my perspective, the most important take-away from this data is that this trend of decreasing hip fractures was well under way long before the new osteoporosis drugs became popular, and scientists agree that this decline in fracture incidence is not due to use of osteoporosis medications.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the decline is in spite of the use of these medications, which have questionable  benefits with long-term use  and which may even increase the risk of non-traumatic fractures in some women who take them for more than 5 years.

So what can you do to help this encouraging trend to continue? Nourish your bones! Many of the factors that cause hip fractures are within your control, and no one has the power to change them but you. To learn more about opportunities to improve your bone health, take our Bone Health Profile.

 

References:

Gehlbach, SH, et al.  2007. Trends in hospital care for hip fracture.  Osteoporosis International, 18(5):585-591.

Leslie, WD, et al. 2009. Trends in hip fracture rates in Canada. JAMA, 302(8):883-889.

 

One woman’s ordeal with osteoporosis medications: there’s a better way!

If you’re thinking about starting a medication for osteoporosis or are unhappy with your current drug regimen, there’s a story I want you to hear. A woman in her 50s with osteoporosis, Joan, recently came to my office looking for help with her bone health. Listening to her story is enough to send you scrambling for a natural, life-supporting approach to strong bones.

At age 48 Joan entered menopause, and three years later her nurse practitioner suggested a bone mineral density test (DEXA). From this DEXA she was diagnosed with osteopenia of both the spine and hip and told to take the osteoporosis nasal spray calcitonin (Miacalcin®). She diligently took this drug only to find at her next DEXA test 2 years later that the bone loss had worsened and was nearing the dreaded “osteoporosis” level.

Then 5 years into menopause her doctor stopped the nasal spray medication and began Fosamax®. This bisphosphonate drug caused serious reflux and the need for acid-blocking medications, which she still takes to this day (ironically, given that long-term use of acid-blocking medications significantly increases fracture risk). Joan then stopped the Fosamax and was put back on the Miacalcin, which had already proven useless for her. Her next bone density test 2 years later showed osteoporosis of the spine and significant worsening of hip bone loss. Now the doctor put her on another bisphosphonate drug, Boniva®, which she used for more than a year even though it gave her leg cramps and heel pain. The next bone density test showed continued bone loss on this second bisphosphonate.

Given the failure of these 3 osteoporosis drugs, Joan was then given the once-a-year IV injection of the bisphosphonate Reclast®. Shortly after receiving this injection she developed a serious and very scary case of iritis (inflammation of the eye iris — a known adverse effect of Reclast) necessitating the use of corticosteroid eye drops (and yes, corticosteroids also cause bone loss). After a year on Reclast® she was found to have continued hip density loss.

At this point, given her adverse reactions to Fosamax, Boniva and Reclast — and their limited usefulness — Joan’s doctor recommend she try the new osteoporosis drug Forteo®, and this was the point at which Joan lost her “compliant patient” status. She went home, studied the Forteo video the doctor had given her, did her own internet search, and decided she would “no way José” use Forteo given its long list of potential risks and side effects. At that point she contacted me at the Center for Better Bones looking for a better way.

The thing that impressed me most about Joan’s case is this: During the many years of failed drug treatment for osteoporosis, Joan never had a medical work-up to identify the causes of her bone loss. No one asked, “Why are you losing bone?” Everyone only asked, “What drug can we give you to halt bone loss?”

Fortunately, Joan has not yet experienced a fracture. But she has lost two teeth due to bone loss in the jaw, and her dentist says she is about to lose two more. Not until she was in my office did someone tell her that her tooth loss was related to her osteoporosis, nor that it could be prevented with the proper bone support.

The good news is, now that she’s starting her Better Bones program, Joan’s prognosis is good. We immediately identified several opportunities for her to reduce the bone-depleting factors in her life, and increased her nutritional support. Her tests showed a significant vitamin D deficiency, which she’s remedying with vitamin D3 supplements.

I’m confident that with proper testing we’ll identify the remaining causes of Joan’s bone loss and get her on the path to better bones. It’s a shame that she had to endure years of medications that did her more harm than good, but fortunately there’s a better way, and at last she’s found it!

 


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