VELLORE: The problem of fracture among elderly people could only be tackled through a multi-pronged approach by the governments and healthcare institutions, noted bone expert Dr Richard Eastell, director of Mellaby Centre for Bone Research attached to the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, said on Saturday.
Dr Eastell was here to take part in the 11th National Conference of the Metabolic Bone Disasters organised by the Indian Society for Bone and Mineral Research, hosted at the Christian Medical College.
Speaking to Express, Dr Eastell, a researcher who has been studying the problem for the past four decades, said, “For normal functioning of muscles, bones should be healthy. Earlier, the issues faced by the elderly was attributed to osteoporosis (brittleness of bone), but now newer understanding of bones has revealed that there are other reasons for fracture and osteoporosis.”
Research findings in the past two decades have pointed out multiple factors for the issue, including deficiency of vitamin D, lack of mineral supplements and a sedentary life devoid of physical exertion, as the major causes for the metabolic bone disorders.
In most of the richer countries, where prosperous lifestyle has made people shun physical activities, the risk of bone issues was higher, he said. According to him, India too was at risk due to a change in lifestyle.
According to him, till 15 years ago, women undergoing menopause were treated with hormones to protect their bones. However, they were prone to the side-effects of the drugs. Later, the drug bisphosphonate replaced hormones and began treating loss of bone mass, but it too was not without harmful effects. Bisphosphonate is the staple drug used across the world, including India, in treating bone issues.
“Recent findings indicate that bisphosphonate should be used only for short-term treatment. The interesting fact is that the drug provides prolonged benefit, even after its usage is stopped,” he pointed out, adding that his finding were shared during the conference.
Another interesting fact he shared with Express was that most of the people living in sunny countries in Asia and Mediterranean region too faced a high risk of fracture.
According to him, this was possibly due to low levels of vitamin D, despite the availability of abundant sunlight throughout the year.
“This could be due to the fact that those living in European and cold countries prefer sunbathing, but those from sunny lands had reservation about exposing body to sunlight,” he said.
Stating that a country like India should have national policies on mineral fortification of food items; for popularising nutrition; and vitamin D rich food supplements to prevent metabolic bone diseases, he said children in the age group of 0-16 should be educated on bone care and given fortified food items.
On his latest research, he said that deficiency of a mineral selenium was also a reason for osteoporosis in some countries. Selenium is found in soil and it gets into the food chain.
“We found out that in UK, where ever there was lower level of selenium, more number of bone diseases were reported from those areas,” he said, adding that UK was importing food items grown in selenium-rich soil in USA and other parts of the world to balance the deficiency.