- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

Post-menopausal women worried about the safety of hormone-replacement therapy to prevent bone loss may get the same or greater benefits by combining exercise, vitamin supplements and weight training, a new study suggests.
Bone loss is the major risk factor for osteoporosis, a disease marked by low bone mass that makes its victims prone to fractures.
Bone loss occurs more rapidly in women than in men because of a decline in estrogen levels that occurs after menopause. Older women account for 80 percent of the estimated 8 million Americans with osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
"In the United States, 1 in 2 women older than 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime," James V. Jessup, an associate professor in the University of Florida College of Nursing and lead researcher, wrote. The study is published in the journal, Biological Research for Nursing.
Last July, the National Institutes of Health's Women's Health Initiative stopped a study of more than 16,000 post-menopausal women who were taking a form of hormone-replacement therapy after they were determined to be at increased risk of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and blood clots.
In what they described as their "small but promising" new study, researchers looked at healthy post-menopausal women, ages 60 to 75, who were not taking hormone-replacement therapy.
Researchers found those who engaged in a regular exercise program that included weight training and taking Vitamin D and calcium showed significant improvement in bone density, strength and balance. But women in the study who did not exercise and take part in weight training did not see those benefits.
The study tracked 18 women during eight months. All participants were given supplemental Vitamin D (400 international units daily) and calcium (1,000 milligrams daily), in addition to their usual meals.
But half of the women did not participate in the exercise regimen, which included supervised calisthenics, strength training, walking and stair climbing for 60 to 90 minutes three times weekly, working with weight machines, and balance and agility training.
The bone density of women who did not exercise decreased an average of 5 percent during an eight-month period, and their strength and balance did not change, according to the study.
In contrast, women who exercised had an average increase of 11 percent in bone mineral density after eight months, as seen on X-ray imaging, Mr. Jessup said.
In addition, he said their strength rose 26 percent and balance improved 27 percent. The study was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research.
"We were really excited to get such dramatic results in such a small study," Claydell Horne, also an associate professor at the University of Florida's College of Nursing, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
She said researchers will seek additional federal money to conduct a larger study involving 150 post-menopausal women.
Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes, president of the board of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, said it looks "promising" that researchers were able to demonstrate "significant benefit to the bone mass" of study participants by "improving their lifestyle."
Even so, she said yesterday, some people will still require medication to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

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