Study links healthy muscle mass to healthy bones

Published on 22 June 2012
Study links healthy muscle mass to healthy bones

Scientists have identified a link between healthy muscle mass and healthy bones and discovered that muscle tissue may affect bone in different ways in men and women.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, US, looked at records on 272 women and 317 men, aged 20 to 97, who had taken part in a long-term study at the clinic.

They compared high-resolution images to see whether there was a link between people's skeletal muscle mass and their bone architecture and strength.

Analysis revealed that in certain parts of the body, muscle mass was associated with bone strength - but that these areas were different for men and women.

In women, there was a strong association between muscle mass and the health of the outer 'cortical' layer of bone at load-bearing locations, such as the hip, lower spine and tibia.

In addition, there was a link between muscle mass and the microarchitecture of the inner 'trabecular' layer of bone in women's forearms, which are prone to fracture following menopause.

Research also revealed that higher levels of a protein called IGFBP-2 - which has already been linked to osteoporotic fractures in men - were associated with lower muscle mass in both men and women.

The finding, which is published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, suggests this protein could be used as a marker for musculoskeletal health and to identify people at high risk of falls and fractures.

Lead author Dr Nathan LeBrasseur, from the clinic's department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, said: "Our study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the highly integrated nature of skeletal muscle and bone, and it also provides new insights into potential biomarkers that reflect the health of the musculoskeletal system."

He added: "As we develop a better understanding of the complex relationship between muscle and bone, we may find new strategies for early identification and treatment of muscle loss and bone density loss."

A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK commented that patients with arthritis were advised to do stretching and strengthening exercises to keep the muscles supporting the joints strong, as the two were closely linked.