LOWELL, Mass. – Osteoporosis, a bone disease that can result in painful fractures – typically in the back, hip or wrist – is often thought of as a woman’s disease. But men get it too, just usually later in life than women.
Segment the population even more and researchers find that Puerto Rican men who live on the U.S. mainland are at much greater risk of thinning bones than previously thought. Researchers at UMass Lowell will assess bone strength and nutrition among men and women in this population in a study that could lead to improvements in treatments for all people who suffer from osteoporosis.
The National Institutes of Health has awarded $2.6 million to UMass Lowell researchers to evaluate bone health risks among this population. The research team is led by UMass Lowell Prof. Katherine Tucker and includes assistant professors Kelsey Mangano and Sabrina Noel of the Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences Department.
This study is among the first of its kind to examine whether differences in bone strength between adults with and without Type 2 diabetes are due in part to compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).
Found in many foods and formed when meats are grilled, roasted, seared, fried or baked, AGEs contribute to increased oxidant stress and inflammation, which are linked to the recent epidemics of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“Studying the relation of AGEs to bone health is novel among humans,” said Tucker, who also leads UMass Lowell’s Center for Population Health. “We expect that the research results will provide insight for developing interventions to prevent bone loss and fracture risk in adults.”
The UMass Lowell team will study about 800 people living in the Boston area who are also participants in the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study Projects, which is a series of in-depth studies conducted over the past 12 years that has allowed researchers to follow the nutrition and health risk factors of 1,500 members of this population.
Participants in the UMass Lowell study will complete a questionnaire, provide blood samples and get bone scans. In addition to the bone mineral density test that measures bone loss, the research team will use a new approach that assesses bone strength.
“We know now that the bone density scans that we use today do not capture the full extent of fracture risk,” said Tucker. “In our study, we’ll be using microindentation, a new test that measures bone material strength. Using this new method in combination with the bone mineral density test will give us a better picture of bone health as it relates to nutrition and other health factors.”
Early this year, Tucker received a $3.9 million grant from the NIH to study the effect of highly processed foods on dementia in this same population.
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu