First posted on 01-04-2012
A new theory from scientists in Spain could push osteoporosis research in a different direction. A group at the University of Castilla - La Mancha studied deer antlers to gain insights into mineral losses from bone structures. They believe that loss of the mineral manganese could result in a failure of calcium to stick to bones, thus leading to osteoporosis.
Their thinking challenges current thought on osteoporosis by hypothesizing that lack of a mineral vital to calcium absorption may play a larger role in the advance of the disease than a lack of calcium.
Tomás Landete, one of the researchers, suggested that when the body absorbs less manganese or when the mineral is directed from the skeleton to other organs in need of manganese—the brain, for example—calcium that is extracted at the same time as the manganese fails to be properly absorbed and leaves the body through urine waste. Landete says this could lead to a slow development of osteoporosis over time.
While the theory has to be verified through further study, the team feels they have taken a “step in a totally new direction in osteoporosis research as it considers calcium loss to be a consequence of the disease and not the origin.”
Landete and the other researchers studied a dramatic increase in deer antler breakage in 2005. After investigating the antlers, the group concluded that the racks were weakened by a loss of manganese in the animal’s diet. The previous winter had been much colder than usual, the stress of which caused plants to react by reducing manganese concentrations in leaves and stems.
“Antlers grow by transferring twenty percent of the skeleton’s calcium towards their structure. We therefore saw that it was not calcium deficiency that caused the weakening but rather the deficiency of manganese,” explained Landete. “The lack of manganese was almost as if the ‘glue’ that sticks calcium to antlers bones was missing.”
In humans, the researchers say that manganese is extracted from bones when critical organs, such as the brain, call for the mineral. While bone maintenance is important, sustaining proper brain function is even more so.
The researchers also pointed out that, as manganese is depleted after the onset of osteoporosis, other conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s could strike. They feel the exhaustion of manganese reserves in the body affects bone densities and contribute to cerebral degeneration. “We are collecting human bones to confirm this. However, studies on rats in which Alzheimer’s disease has been induced by aluminium intoxication show that as the severity of this disease increases, manganese levels in the bones decrease,” says Landete.
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