Patients with atherosclerosis — a buildup of cholesterol and fat in the arteries — face a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism.
The researchers noted that epidemiological evidence points to a link between atherosclerosis and osteoporosis in elderly humans, as well as hip fractures, regardless of age. This suggests that similar pathogenic factors may contribute to both conditions.
In the new study, the scientists found evidence to show that the development of atherosclerosis encourages a loss of bone density.
Reporting on the findings, the American Physiological Society explains that cells called osteoblasts form new bone, while other cells called osteoclasts remove old bone. Bone mass is maintained by balancing the number and activity of these cells.
In tests on mice, those with atherosclerosis had fewer osteoblasts.
The researchers found that, while numbers of osteoclasts decreased modestly in some bones, there were significantly more osteoclasts than osteoblasts overall, making bone loss more likely.
They also observed that atherosclerosis-induced inflammation in the bone interfered with the maturation of new osteoblast cells, accounting for the reduction in number of osteoblasts.
The study, titled ‘Skeletal inflammation and attenuation of Wnt signaling, Wnt ligand expression and bone formation in atherosclerotic ApoE-null mice´, used mice fed a high-fat diet for three months and compared them with mice on a normal diet.