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Obesity: you can't win for losing

July 29, 2008 | 12:09 pm

If you're overweight, you know the benefits of weight loss -- lowered risk of about a gazillion diseases, the big ones being heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. So you've changed your whole life, trading TV for exercise, fast food for less food and elevators for stairs.

Skeleton1 You've lost the weight! But before you start dancing and breaking out the Champagne -- make that sparkling water -- consider your bones.

While you've been re-sculpting your body, your bones have also been remodeling themselves, according to research at the University of Missouri, accepted for publication in a future issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Lo and behold, your bone density has decreased, and your bones are more fragile. The kicker is that this fragility persists even when you're in the maintenance phase of your new look.

Researchers examined protein markers of bone breakdown and formation in 37 obese, middle-aged adults who lost 20% of their weight through a severe calorie-restricted diet. They knew that moderate weight loss reduces bone mineral density, but they didn't know if bones return to normal density during post-diet weight maintenance.

Well, they don't. Author Pam Hinton, associate professor of nutritional sciences at the university, found that nine months after the weight loss, bones remained more fragile than before.

"Rapid rates of bone remodeling ... can increase bone fragility," says Pam Hinton, associate professor of nutritional sciences and author of the study. "People planning on losing a significant amount of weight should incorporate high-impact weight-bearing physical activity into their exercise routine and consume adequate calcium to improve bone health."

For a thorough "how-to" guide on weight loss, check out the June 9 Health section of the Los Angeles Times.

-- Susan Brink

Photo: Fredrik Nilsen. "Dancing Skeletons" by Liz Craft.

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