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Collaborative Success Stories: Bad to the Bone


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University of Missouri researchers have found excessive weight can reduce bone quality.

Obese individuals have increased bone mass. Because bone mass typically decreases the risk of osteoporosis, some researchers speculated that obesity could protect aging bones.

To find out, Pam Hinton led a team studying young rats genetically predisposed to obesity. Half of the obese rats voluntarily exercised on running wheels, while half remained sedentary. A control group of non-obese rats also remained sedentary. As the rats aged, the scientists monitored their bone mass. Rats in the control group accumulated bone mass as they grew. Obese rats also increased bone mass, but—a key finding—they developed less mass relative to their body weight than the control group.

The team also discovered that in obese, sedentary rats, bone tissue was weaker than in the control group. However, the non-sedentary obese rats did not lose bone strength. In fact, the rats that exercised had stronger bones than the normal-weight controls.

The scientists’ findings indicate that rather than protecting against osteoporosis, obesity can lead to weaker bones. The study also underlines the importance of exercise for bone strength in individuals of all weights.

Dr. Pam Hinton is an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, a unit of the Colleges of Human Environmental Sciences and Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and the School of Medicine.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine