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Folic Acid and Vegetables Build Stronger Bones

New studies strongly link high homocysteine levels to bone fractures in elderly people. Folate and other B vitamins (B6 and B12) cut homocysteine levels, good nutrition appears more important than ever. Whether it is a culprit or a bystander, homocysteine can now be added to the growing list of risk factors for fractures. Homocysteine occurs naturally in the blood. Levels rise to high levels in people who don't get enough folic acid and other B vitamins. Homocysteine has been linked to heart disease. Now it is linked to bone fracture.

The evidence is circumstantial -- but very strong, researchers say. Studies in the U.S. and in the Netherlands involving thousands of people aged 55 and older show the same thing. Compared with people with the lowest homocysteine levels:

  • Men with the highest homocysteine levels have a fourfold higher risk of bone fracture.
  • Women with the highest homocysteine levels double their risk of bone fracture.
  • Homocysteine might cause bone loss by interfering with the way new bone forms. But that has never been conclusively proven. It might be that homocysteine is just a marker for another problem.

On the other hand, getting enough folic acid and other B vitamins substantially lowers homocysteine levels. Vitamin D and calcium are proven to lower bone fracture risk. It is also important to remember that lowering insulin levels is a great way to lower homocysteine levels and improve your bone density.

Baltimore Sun May 12, 2004

New England Journal of Medicine May 13, 2004;350:2033-2041

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