Weight Gain May Lead to Increased Risk of Fracture in Postmenopausal Women


Many women that are of postmenopausal age, understand the importance of protecting their bones, as the risk for fractures due to osteoporosis can be high. While many women take supplements and eat vitamin-rich foods in order to stay healthy, it was also once thought that gaining a bit of weight may also protect against fractures. A new study suggests however that this may not be the case, and that both weight gain, and weight loss could increase the risk of fracture depending upon the part of the body.

Dr. Carolyn Crandall led the study, which looked at over 120,000 healthy, postmenopausal women in the United States. The women in the study were followed for around 11 years. During this time, the goal of the analysis was to see any connections between a change in weight and incidence of fracture. The researchers focused on the time of baseline through year three of the study.

Participants who gained weight had a 10% increased risk for upper-limb fracture and an 18% increase for lower-limb fractures. This is compared to women who maintained a stable weight. Since these findings go against the previous research on weight gain and risk of fractures, Dr. Crandall explained her theory on the results.  “Because obesity is starting to emerge as a risk factor for fracture, we suspected that weight gain over time would emerge as a risk factor for fracture in our study. The results confirmed our suspicions,” she said.

Women who lost weight overall had a 65% higher incidence of hip fracture, 30% increase in central-body fractures, and a 9% increase in upper-limb fracture. Researchers determined that those that experienced unintentional weight loss were more likely to have a fracture than those who lost weight intentionally. This was the first time that research has been conducted on intentional vs unintentional weight loss and risk of fracture.

The new findings will bring about more research into how postmenopausal women can protect their bones from fracture. Dr. Crandall’s study suggests that weight change can affect different areas of the body in various ways. More studies will need to be done on parts of the body most as risk of fracture, particularly among postmenopausal women. With that, it is hoped that in the future the incidence of fractures will decrease along with other injuries associated with osteoporosis.

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