In the past, being overweight was considered to be protective against Osteoporosis, a disease that causes the bones to become weakened and brittle and more at risk for fracture. This is because increased weight on the bones leads to more dense bones. Therefore, thin women were deemed to be more at risk for Osteoporosis. While it is still true that being thin does increase your risk for Osteoporosis, research now suggests that excess fat around the belly as well as in the liver, tissues and blood may be detrimental to bone.
While other studies have looked at the relationship between visceral fat and bone mineral density, this particular study examined the amount of fat in the bone marrow. This is because the bone marrow is where our stem cells can develop into osteoblasts, the cells responsible for bone formation. The study, published online in the journal Radiology found that people with higher levels of fat in their liver, muscle tissue and blood also have higher amounts of fat in their bone marrow. The researchers used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), to examine 106 men and women ages 19 to 45 who were obese based on body mass index measurements (BMI), but were otherwise healthy. The results of this testing showed that people with more liver and muscle fat had higher levels of fat in their bone marrow, regardless of their age, BMI and exercise status.
Clearly, more research needs to be conducted to more closely examine the relationship between the amount of bone marrow fat and this risk for Osteoporosis. However, this important study highlights the importance of weight management and healthy eating habits to increase overall health.