Men, be careful. Excess body fat and bone health are not compatible. This news is according to recent research published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism. Men who carry excess body fat or weight may increase men’s risk for the brittle bone disease osteoporosis, increasing the probability of a fracture.
Study methods and results
This surprising finding goes against past studies, which have found body fat to have either a positive or neutral effect on bone density.
Rajesh K. Jain, M.D., of the University of Chicago Medicine, stated, “We found that higher fat mass was related to lower bone density, and these trends were stronger in men than women.” Dr. Jain went on to say, “Our research suggests that the effect of body weight depends on a person’s makeup of lean and fat mass, and that bodyweight alone is not a guarantee against osteoporosis.”
When comparing lean body mass to fat body mass, lean mass is considered the weight of a person’s body that includes all organs, skin, and bones, minus fat. Healthcare professionals have assumed that the more a person weighs, the more substantial bone density they have, lowering their risk for fractures. The reason stems from a person’s body weight directly associated with bone mineral density (BMD). It’s been found that obese adults have higher BMD in the lumbar spine and femoral neck than adults of a healthy weight. Low BMD has also been found in young, thin women with an eating disorder that can predict more significant bone loss in older age.
The Endocrine’s Society’s study selected almost 11,000 people under age 60 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011-2018 of which each had undergone a total body DXA bone scan. After the DXA bone scan, T-scores were used to determine total body BMD. From this, calculations of both lean mass index and fat mass helped assess the effects of body composition on BMD.
Researchers analyzed bone mineral density and body composition data, finding a strong association between lean mass and bone mineral density in both men and women. But there was a negative association with bone mineral density in men who carried excess fat mass.
Due to this finding, the research encourages healthcare providers to screen men for osteoporosis, mainly if they are older, have had a previous fracture, have a family history of osteoporosis, or use steroids.
Calculating a patient’s body composition is rarely done as a routine clinical measurement in a doctor’s office setting. Unless this clinical measurement is done, genuinely knowing a patient’s body fat or body lean mass content is generally not known. However, patients with diabetes or who perform poorly on physical assessments such as grip strength would be patients to consider for osteoporosis screening.
What men can do to improve bone health
Fortunately, there are several ways men can improve upon the health and strength of their bones. Here are steps they can take:
- Calcium intake for men is 1000 mg/day ages 19-70. Men over 70 years of age require 1200 mg/day of this mineral.
- Best food sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, and calcium-fortified beverages such as soymilk, and 3 ounces of canned salmon with edible bones.
- Emphasize vitamin D. For the body to absorb calcium there has to be a sufficient intake of the sunshine vitamin. The best source is sunlight. Spend 15-30 minutes outdoors at least 3 times a week with at least the hands and face uncovered. The best food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, fortified milk, eggs, and beef liver.
- Exercise regularly with weight-bearing exercises. This includes walking, jogging, dancing, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and lifting weights.
- Strength training moves tax bones by making them grow heavier and more dense. Try pushups, rowing, and resistance bands.
- Don’t smoke.
- Reduce or cut out added sugar from sugary beverages, candy, and other ultra-processed foods.
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.