Magazine article Science News

Diet, Exercise, Genes Strengthen Bones

Magazine article Science News

Diet, Exercise, Genes Strengthen Bones

Article excerpt

Study after study these days touts the benefits of eating right and

exercising. But the value of that advice may depend on your genetic

inheritance.

A study of a gene associated with the development of strong bones indicates that the importance of exercising and drinking milk varies with the type of vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene your cells harbor.

"We found that the combination of dietary calcium intake and exercise can overcome a poor genetic predisposition," says epidemiologist Loran Salamone of the University of Pittsburgh team that conducted the study, "while for those with a beneficial genetic makeup, little activity and low calcium intake didn't adversely affect [bone strength.]"

The finding may help identify women who need to work at developing strong bones.

Through early adulthood, people continually add calcium and strength to their bones, which reach a peak density around age 35. Women rapidly lose bone density after menopause, and their ability to avoid osteoporosis--severe bone loss that can lead to life-threatening fractures--depends upon their bone density before menopause.

In 1994, researchers discovered that the vitamin D receptor is vital to achieving high bone density. But not all vitamin D receptors are the same. The VDR gene, which carries the blueprint for making the receptors, comes in two varieties. Both produce functional vitamin D receptors, but one stores calcium in bone a little more efficiently.

People who inherit two copies of the more efficient form of VDR--known as b--develop high bone densities. …

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