Slow Bone Loss: Study stresses importance of adequate B-12

Older women with low levels of vitamin B-12 are more likely to experience rapid bone loss, according to new research. The new findings help to establish the importance of vitamin B-12 in the bone health of women as they age.

Vitamin B-12, which is found in animal products, such as meat, shellfish, milk, cheese and eggs, is needed to produce red blood cells and maintain a healthy nervous system. Still, little is known about the vitamin’s effects on skeletal health, specifically among aging women. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, led by Dr Katie Stone, studied whether elderly women with low levels of vitamin B-12 suffer from more rapid bone loss.

Using 83 women over the age of 64 who participated in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures, researchers looked at blood samples and measured hip bone mineral density in study subjects during two- and six-year follow-up examinations. Results showed that women with the lowest levels of B-12 experienced significantly more rapid hip bone loss than women with higher levels of B-12.

“While deficiencies in vitamin B-12 are uncommon among younger women, many older women suffer from vitamin B-12 deficiency,” explains Dr Stone. “We knew that vitamin B-12 benefited the nervous system, but our findings suggest that it may also benefit bone health.” The authors note that these results indicate that for some elderly women, simple dietary supplements of vitamin B-12 or multivitamins or dietary modification may slow the rates of bone loss.

Endocrine Society, Mar 3, 2004