Osteoporosis

Thigh fractures linked to osteoporosis drugs; long-term use questioned

Stephanie Watson

Since bisphosphonates such as alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), risedronate (Actonel), and zoledronic acid (Reclast) were first introduced in the mid-1990s, they’ve become a staple of osteoporosis treatment. Yet an FDA review recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine questions whether there’s any benefit to staying on these drugs long-term—especially considering their potential for side effects. A report released today in the Archives of Internal Medicine highlights one of those side effects, linking bisphosphonate use to a higher risk of unusual fractures in the femur (thighbone). If you’ve been taking bisphosphonates long-term, you may be wondering, “What now?” If you’ve been taking bisphosphonates for less than five years you probably don’t need to change what you’re doing. But if you’ve been on these drugs for more than five years, talk to your doctor about whether it’s worth continuing.

Whole-body vibration doesn’t slow bone loss

Howard LeWine, M.D.
Howard LeWine, M.D., Chief Medical Editor, Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications

Good vibrations may work for dancing on the beach or for romance, but they don’t seem to do much to strengthen bones. Results of a clinical trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that older women who stood on a vibrating platform for 20 minutes a day experienced just as much bone loss over the course of the year-long trial as women who didn’t use the platform.

Do chronic diseases have their origins in the womb?

Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis and other common chronic diseases are often blamed on genes, pollution, or the wear and tear caused by personal choices like a poor diet, smoking, or too little exercise. An intriguing hypothesis is that these and other conditions stem from a developing baby’s environment, mainly the womb and the placenta. During the first thousand days of development, from conception to age 2, the body’s tissues, organs, and systems are exquisitely sensitive to conditions in their environment during various windows of time. A lack of nutrients or an overabundance of them during these windows, so the thinking goes, programs a child’s development and sets the stage for health or disease.

At Harvard Forum, experts debate how much vitamin D is enough

Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

A panel discussion at Harvard School of Public Health called “Boosting Vitamin D: Not Enough or Too Much?” highlights the current controversy over the once-overlooked sunshine vitamin. A panel of experts assembled by the Institute of Medicine recommends a daily dose of 600 IU per day for everyone from ages 1 to 70 and 800 IU for those over 70. Other experts think the IOM recommendation is too low. One way to get vitamin D is to spend a few minutes a day outside in the sun, but that’s a hot-button issue because sun exposure is a cause of skin cancer.

Vitamin D recommendations

Peter Wehrwein
Peter Wehrwein, Contributor, Harvard Health

Vitamin D has been talked about as the vitamin — the one that might help fend off everything from cancer to heart disease to autoimmune disorders, if only we were to get enough of it. “Whoa!” is the message from a committee of experts assembled by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to update recommendations for vitamin D (and for calcium). […]

Could too much calcium cause heart disease?

Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Don’t throw out those calcium supplements just yet. Oh, the ruckus a single study can raise. A report about calcium and cardiovascular disease had people from San Diego to Caribou, Maine worriedly calling their doctors or throwing away the calcium supplements they were taking to keep their bones strong. Here’s what prompted the concern: New […]