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Excess fat around the belly has recently been identified as a risk factor for bone loss. A new study by Mass General radiologists has determined that excess liver and muscle fat also may be detrimental to bone.

Fat in organs and blood may increase risk of osteoporosis

16/Jul/2013

Miriam A. Bredella, MD

Excess fat around the belly has recently been identified as a risk factor for bone loss. Now, a new study has determined that excess liver and muscle fat also may be detrimental to bone.

The study, published online in the journal Radiology, found that obese people with higher levels of fat in their liver, muscle tissue and blood also have higher amounts of fat in their bone marrow, putting them at risk for osteoporosis.

"Obesity was once thought to be protective against bone loss," said study lead author Miriam A. Bredella, MD, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "We have found that this is not true."

While other studies have examined the relationship between visceral fat and bone mineral density, this study looked at fat inside bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside the bones of the body that produces stem cells.

"In our study, we focused on bone marrow fat because that is where our stem cells can develop into osteoblasts—the cells responsible for bone formation—or fat cells," Dr. Bredella said. "We also wanted to look at the relationship between bone marrow fat and other fat components, such as those in the liver and muscle."

Read coverage of the study in US News & World Report and see the full press release.

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