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Obesity Pegs The Risk For Developing Osteoporosis

While most of the focus on obesity is from the perspective of the risks it adds to a person’s cardiovascular health, chances of developing diabetes, sleep apnea, certain cancer types and other medical conditions, it has now come to light that obesity also plays a major role in pegging your risk of developing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis later in life.

Researchers from Sweden’s Sahlgrenska Academy (Gothenburg University) have carried out a study which revealed that the body’s obesity-related hormone called adiponectin was responsible for increased risk of fractures as well as osteoporosis. (1)

Obesity is an adverse medical condition where the body accumulates excessive fat and puts it to risk for various health problems and in some cases life expectancy. Obesity is usually managed by improving the lifestyle of the effected person through better eating habits, improving food quality, exercising and dieting.

Adiponectin is a polypeptide hormone of protein make-up. It is secreted by fat cells called adipocytes. As a hormone, it is responsible for regulating a number of metabolic processes in the human body such as regulating glucose and fatty acid burning as well as controlling insulin sensitivity and effecting weight loss. (2) Quantity of adiponectin secreted into the blood plasma is inversely correlated with body fat percentage in adults.

Since our skeletal structure is a complex system linked to our brain, muscle and fatty tissues, it keeps active at both external structure level as well as intrinsically. The stem cells are formed in the skeleton of our body, which is also home to hormones that control the body’s blood sugar and obesity by sending signals to other organs.

Bones achieve maximum strength for the least amount of weight. The study of bones will show that it increases in thickness in such areas which are subject to repeated weight bearing. The constitution of the bones is such that the calcium and phosphate that make it, also give bone its ability to withstand compression and bending forces. (3) However, increase in body weight puts a sustained and continuous pressure on the entire network of bones, thus weakening it over a period of time.

The research at Sahlgrenska Academy was an international research project which revealed that raised levels of obesity hormone in the blood could be connected to osteoporosis. The study was conducted on 11,000 elderly men across Sweden, USA and Hong Kong, on whom risk factors connected to osteoporosis were being assessed. Lead researcher of the Academy, Dan Mellstrom who is also an expert on osteoporosis particularly examined the obesity hormone adiponectin’s relationship with developing osteoporosis. As per Mellstrom, “High levels of adiponectin in the elderly seem to be associated with both reduced functioning of the musculature and a more fragile skeleton. This means a higher risk of fractures and falls, and also increased mortality.” (4)

The study brought to light another fact – people who had raised levels of the hormone adiponectin also had more fragile skeletons which them more susceptible to fractures and increased functional aging of bones. The increases danger of fractures was assisted by factors such as lower muscle mass and reduced muscular strength which was found common among those with higher levels of adiponectin in their blood plasma.


  1. Obesity Hormone Adiponectin Increases the Risk of Osteoporosis in the Elderly, Study Finds; Science Daily; November, 2011;
  2. Definition of Adiponectin;; November, 2011;
  3. Osteoporosis; NetDoctor; November, 2011;
  4. Obesity Hormone Adiponectin Increases The Risk Of Osteoporosis In The Elderly; University Of Gothenburg – The Sahlgrenska Academy – News; November, 2011;

Author: Monica Straith, BS

Monica is the PR and Outreach Manager and Fitness Lead at AlgaeCal. She’s an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist, and has a B.S. and B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she played varsity soccer for four years. Monica pulls from her experience in athletics and health to contribute to AlgaeCal and has also been featured on myfitnesspal blog, Prevention, and Huffington Post.