It’s no secret that high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease, but new research from Italy suggests that it may also be bad for the bones.
In a study of postmenopausal women, those with higher levels of LDL (the “bad” form of cholesterol) were much more likely to show signs of bone thinning than women with normal cholesterol.
The findings do not prove that high cholesterol is to blame for bone thinning, but the results do provide a possible explanation for studies suggesting that cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins protect bones, researchers report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Very little is known about how cholesterol levels may affect the risk of developing the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis. Recent studies that have examined the relationship between levels of LDL cholesterol – and the risk of bone thinning have produced interesting results.
In the new study, a team led by Dr. Andrea Poli at the University of Milan measured bone density and cholesterol levels in 1,303 women ages 45 to 65 who had been through menopause.
The women were divided into three groups based on LDL levels: normal (129 mg/dL or below), moderately high (130 to 159 mg/dL) and high (160 mg/dL and above).
Compared to women with normal LDL levels, women with high levels were 74 percent more likely to have osteopenia, a bone-thinning condition just short of osteoporosis, Poli’s team reports.
Osteopenia was more common in older women and in those with a low body mass index, or BMI, which is a measure of weight in relation to height. And the longer it had been since menopause, the greater were a woman’s odds of having bone thinning, according to the report.
High LDL levels may weaken bones by promoting the breakdown of bone, according to the report.
In other findings, levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol were not related to bone density.