Osteoporosis is a condition that affects mostly women over the age of 50, characterized by low bone density and high fracture risk. Though it impacts far more women than men, men are not immune to this condition.
The most commonly acknowledged factors influencing bone density are calcium and vitamin D levels. Calcium contributes to bone formation and vitamin D facilitates the body’s absorption of calcium. According to new research, another factor may be of import in the risk of bone fractures among older men: vitamin B12 levels.
Vitamin B12 serves many functions in the body, including the promotion of nerve and blood cell health and the manufacture of DNA. It may also contribute to bone strength. Older people are at risk of B12 deficiency because they tend to have less hydrochloric acid in their stomachs; hydrochloric acid is needed to separate B12 from the food we ingest, allowing for its absorption.
A study of 790 Swedish men of an average age of 75 sought to establish whether or not low levels of B12 in the blood were associated with increased fracture risk. Average follow-up time was 5.9 years. The men who tested in the lowest quartile for B12 levels had about a 70% increased incidence of fractures compared to others in the study.
See more on the study at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
As we age, our bodies make it harder for us to get the nutrients we need. To get around the problem of low hydrochloric acid levels, older people are advised to eat foods fortified with B12 so that they are getting more of it. Supplements are another option.
How do you know if your levels of B12 are low? A blood test is the most accurate way to tell. People with low levels may have no symptoms of B12 deficiency. In some cases, however, deficiency causes anemia. Symptoms of this include:
Diarrhea or constipation
Finger and toe tingling/numbness
While it is often a silent condition, B12 deficiency can increase your risk of serious health problems as you age, from bone fractures to dementia. If you present with some of the symptoms listed above, have your levels tested.
Osteoporosis prevention involves a combination of physical activity and healthy eating. Understanding the changes that occur in your body as you age (for example, lowered levels of hydrochloric acid) will help you understand how to adjust your behaviors to promote health.