Magazine article Science News

Menstrual Glitches May Spur Bone Loss

Magazine article Science News

Menstrual Glitches May Spur Bone Loss

Article excerpt

Menstrual glitches mayspur bone loss

For the first time, research findings hint that "silent" abnormalities affecting the sex hormone progesterone can cause bone loss in young, healthy women. The new results suggest that subtle problems with the menstrual cycle can cause ongoing bone loss, a process that can lead to osteoporosis later in life.

The study's implications run counter to conventional thinking about osteoporosis. Scientists have blamed this crippling bone disorder primarily on a deficiency of the hormone estrogen, which slows the ongoing destruction of adult bone. The estrogen theory fits with the observation that many older women, who lose this hormone during menopause, experience rapid bone loss. In addition, scientists have held estrogen deficiency accountable for the bone loss plaguing some young female athletes who fail to menstruate.

Endocrinologist Jerilynn C. Prior started with a hunch that estrogen was only part of the osteoporosis story. She and her colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver set out to determine whether progesterone and/or exercise played any role in bone loss among a group of young women with no obvious mentstrual difficulties.

The team focused on 66 women aged 21 to 42 who had normal menstrual cycles in the first two months of the study. The group consisted of 21 marathon runners, 22 recreational joggers and 23 women with normal activity levels. The researchers charted each volunteer's menstrual cycle, used an X-ray technique to estimate changes in spinal bone mass and developed a statistical method to reveal any correlations between bone density, exercise and menstrual cycle.

During the year-long study, they identified 28 women who had more than one menstrual cycle with a short luteal phase -- the interval between ovulation and the beginning of menstruation -- and andther 13 women who failed to ovulate during at least one cycle. …

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