When your bones become weak and fragile…

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | General Health | Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 06:10 AM

osteoporosis, preventionA few years ago I was having a hard time sleeping. I had a lot on the go (don’t we all?) and the stress was getting the better of me, so I started taking melatonin supplements. They’re a terrific natural, non-addicting hormone used as a sleep aid.

Turns out, the melatonin could have been helping me in more ways than one. Always good to know!

New research has shown that melatonin may strengthen the bones of older rats and shows promise with osteoporosis in humans.

That’s according to a new study by McGill University in Canada. Researchers at the school revealed that melatonin supplements may make the bones of elderly rats much stronger. That’s because bones are fortified by cells (osteoblasts) during the day and deteriorated by others (osteoclasts) at night.

As we get older, our aging bones need all the help they can get to stay strong and healthy.

As an animal grows older, it sleeps less, so the cells that break down the bones win out. But by giving older rats melatonin supplements to regulate their circadian rhythms or sleep cycles, scientists have been able to make the rats’ bones less brittle. This information could prove to be a useful tool in preventing osteoporosis, the disease that causes bones to deteriorate and become fragile, according to McGill researchers.

Lead researcher Faleh Tamini says, “Old rats are tedious to work with because they get sick a lot and that means they also cost a lot more. But if you’re interested in diseases like osteoporosis, they’re an essential part of the process.”

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No one wants to fall and break a hip

Characterized by lowered bone mass and deteriorating bone tissue, osteoporosis is a disease that leads to fragile bones and an increased risk of fracture. This means broken hips, wrists and shoulders. It’s often referred to as “the silent thief” because such loss of bone happens with little or no warning.

Over time, osteoporosis can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life leading to disfigurement, lowered self-esteem and loss of mobility, not to mention decreased independence.

How many of us really want to end up unable to care for ourselves because we’ve suffered a broken hip and haven’t fully recovered?

But the truth of the matter is in the United States alone, an estimated 10 million people have osteoporosis and roughly 18 million more are at risk of developing the disease. According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the majority of sufferers are women. Because of the economic and societal effect of these injuries, as well as the aging population, falls and fractures as a result of osteoporosis remain a significant public health concern. In 2010, the direct medical cost of falls in older adults was $28.2 billion.

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Better treatments for osteoporosis on the horizon

Current drug treatments for osteoporosis haven’t shown much success. In my opinion, we need a natural, convenient and preventative therapy. It’s about normalizing bone density, restoring the quality of bones and preventing fractures. We want people to be happy, healthy and comfortable for as long as possible, which is why research like this is so important.

Of course, until more research and clinical trials determine how melatonin works exactly, people with osteoporosis shouldn’t go ahead and take melatonin supplements without speaking to their doctor.

But the researchers from McGill University say they will have more answers soon. They say more research needs to be done that focuses on prevention and reversal of osteoporosis to achieve what they consider a true success.


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