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24 October 2008

The Hidden Link Between Men’s Bone Health and Vitamin C

Vitamin C is known for many things, including being necessary for normal bone development and for the formation of collagen. Until recently, however, it has not been seen as a possible player in retaining bone density—particularly for older men.

But that’s what has recently come to the fore. There is new research that indicates that eating a diet high in vitamin C may just help older men maintain strong and healthy bones— and keeping bones dense can help reduce the risk of fractures. Over a four-year period, 231 men and 393 women whose average age was 75, were monitored by Katherine Tucker and a team of her colleagues to observe any correlation between vitamin C intake and bone mineral density (BMD).

And here’s what they found: the men with the highest levels of vitamin C intake maintained their original bone mineral density during the four-year study. The men with the lowest levels of vitamin C intake, however, did not fare so well. Their bone mineral density decreased. They found, too, that vitamin C exhibited some protection against bone mineral density loss in women, although their findings were not “statistically significant.”

Their conclusion? These results suggest a possible protective role of vitamin C for bone health in older men.

Tucker explains why vitamin C may play such a role in bone health. She says, “Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin and reduces oxidative stress, which has a negative effect on all cells in the body. Antioxidants are needed to protect against oxidative stress, therefore protecting against inflammation. Inflammation drives bone resorption, which is basically taking calcium away from the bones. Vitamin C, theoretically, should help slow that resorption."

Tucker emphasized, too, that bone mineral density, bone status and fracture risk are related to many more nutrients than just calcium. And, apparently, it could be true. In recent years, researchers have found that maintaining bone density requires not just getting enough calcium, but also vitamin D and protein.

Dr. Mone Zaidi, director of the bone health program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, indicates that this study is one of many that have been conducted over the past ten years that show the correlation between vitamin C intake and protection against bone loss.

Now, more evidence is emerging about the important role of vitamin C and bones. You could say that vitamin C is creating its own track record in bone health.

Now that’s a track record to watch.

21 October 2008

Doctors able to correct scoliosis with stem cells

5/13/2008 7:48 AM
By: Ivanhoe Broadcast News Service

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. In stead of the spine forming a straight line up and down one's back, it curves from side to side, often in an 'S' formation. It's a condition that often runs in families, though the cause of the malformation remains unknown.

Many schools and pediatricians screen for the condition, which often begins in childhood. However, adult scoliosis can develop after age 18, often as a result of a childhood case that was either undiagnosed or left untreated, or a degenerative joint condition in the spine. Screening for the condition is fairly simple as the spinal curvature can usually be seen from behind when the patient bends forward.
Patients are usually monitored until they develop a 25 degree to 40 degree curvature or greater. After that point, doctors will usually put the patient in a brace to help straighten the spine out and/or stop progression. When the curvature is beyond 40 degrees to 50 degrees, or if the brace does not stop progression, surgery is usually recommended.

Scoliosis is not a painful condition, so sometimes it patients can develop an advanced condition before seeking medical attention. Spinal fusion -- when two or more vertebrae are fused together, preventing further progression of the cure -- is the most common surgery method available for scoliosis. Hooks and rods or screws are used to correct the deformity, then bone from the pelvis is often used to fuse the vertebrae. Unfortunately, spinal fusion can limit a patient's motion after surgery and harvesting bone from the pelvis can be a significant source of pain for patients.

Stem cells are found in most multi-cellular organisms and are capable of regenerating themselves and can differentiate into a variety of specialized cell types. Contrary to their name, adult stem cells are found in both children and adults and refer to cells found in a born human being. Embryonic stem cells, however, are the controversial cells collected from early stage human embryos -- about four or five days old in humans, consisting of 50 to 150 cells.

Using adult stem cells collected from bone marrow, doctors are now able to correct scoliosis of the spine. During surgery, doctors still use screws and rods to correct the curvature of the spine. After that step, however, harvesting bone from a patient's pelvis is no longer necessary. Doctors can use the stem cells and bone from the bone bank to create solid fusion along the vertebrae to hold the corrected spine in its new position.

Once fusion is solid, patients can return to normal activities. Recovery time is similar to traditional spinal fusion surgery because the same large incision is made in the patient's back. However, the pain from the pelvic bone is eliminated. Some doctors see this stem cell therapy as a more holistic approach to the healing process.