Bone Health and Deer Antlers

After a cold winter in Spain, researchers noticed a change in the antlers of the local deer that may lead to treatments and different diet protocols for optimum bone health

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in Modoc Count...

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Researchers at the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM) in Spain have been studying local deer antlers, their growth patterns, and most recently studying their deficiencies in one particular year. Deer antler tissue is among the fastest growing tissue found in the animal kingdom, and is actually bone, with similar properties to that of human bone. For this reason, researchers have been studying the properties of the antlers in an effort to potentially find new treatments for certain types of cancer and osteoporosis.

In the spring and summer of 2005, the Spanish deer population was suffering from antler breakage at a rate far beyond what would be considered normal. When researchers began examining the deer, they made the observation that they had extraordinarily low amounts of manganese, a chemical element designated “Mn,” and in the 25th position on the atomic chart. This is a mineral not to be confused with magnesium, another component of bone mass density retention. Manganese enzymes are particularly required in detoxification of superoxide free radicals in organisms. Manganese also functions in the oxygen-cycling of plants that are photosynthetic (require sunlight to grow). The typical human contains approximately 12 mg of manganese, which is stored mainly in bones mass, and concentrated in the liver and kidneys.

The deer that were being studied had just been through a winter with record cold temperatures. With these temperatures, the plants normally in the diet of the local deer did not pull the same, normal amount of manganese from the soil. Almost all plants and fungi retain small amounts of manganese, though it is not a part of popular discussion with healthy eating. This deficiency with Spanish deer was passed on to them from the plants they were eating which had poor nutrient content. More research is being done on manganese to ascertain a greater understanding of its relationship with retention of calcium in bone mass, creation of bone mass, and potential for treating osteoporosis.

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