Is Osteoporosis a Disease?

Recent observations in functional medicine indicate many disease classifications have lifestyle causes, as opposed to viral or bacterial causes. So is osteoporosis a disease?

One of the most common research mistakes is confusing correlation with causation. A researcher will look at two events that occur together and draw the conclusion that one causes the other, when in actuality the events may be caused by another variable entirely, perhaps even one that has not been examined at all. An example that a child may be guilty of is seeing the streetlights go on when the sun goes down. The child may assume that the action of the streetlights turning on is what causes the sun to go down.
A medical example of this mistake is seen in the long-standing practice of physicians prescribing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to post menopausal women in order to lower their chances of coronary heart disease. This assumption was based on studies that were presented to the FDA Advisory Committee in 1990 showing lower instances of coronary heart disease in post-menopausal women who were using the commonly accepted estrogen and progestin HRT. This discussion resulted in a label change for HRT drugs to include prescription for the purpose of protecting against heart disease. As with the streetlamp example, the problem is confusing correlation with causation. The original claims were drawn from observational data of existing HRT patients, not from random sample clinical trials. The HRT patients were statistically from higher socio-economic groups and had been more likely to exercise and chose healthier foods to consume. Ultimately, HRT was proven to slightly increase the chances of heart disease (Lawlor et al. 2004).

Accepting osteoporosis as a result of aging could be seen another example of confusing correlation with causation. Even the National Center for Biotechnology Information refers to osteoporotic exaggerated spinal curvature: “The spine weakens with age, becoming more curved and more fragile.” (NCBI, 2011). Yes the elderly population may be more prone to the disease, but age is not the cause.

The Blood Sugar Solution, by Dr. Mark Hyman
Photo Credit: Amazon

Dr. Mark Hyman, has authored a step-by-step guide for individuals to take control of their own health titled The Blood Sugar Solution. He feels that humanity is currently at a watershed moment in science and medicine. Dr. Hyman states that we used to try to find “the drug for the bug or the pill for the ill,” and continues with, “instead of really finding out how to treat the body as a system.” His research and publications reference how many “diseases” are not as a result of foreign bacteria or viral complications, but as a result of lifestyle choice. This research does not confuse cause with correlation, but rather focuses on cause. The NCBI, As well as others define osteoporosis as a disease, and this can be seen as a mistake. Lifestyle choices as individuals age keep them from being as active as they once were, allowing for deconditioning to occur. This then exacerbates most of the problems of aging. Once the aging adult faces either the onset, or knowledge of the potential onset, of these age-related diseases and conditions as well as deconditioning, physical activity is further discouraged. Osteoporosis can certainly be attributed to this, as well as degradation in muscular mass, which can contribute to compromises in other systems of the body.

New advancements are being made in fitness, and medical devices that allow practitioners to treat causes instead of symptoms. Functional medicine looks at the body as an entire system, all working together. These advancements will focus more on stimulating the body to correct imbalances within itself, often with exercise interventions as opposed to pharmaceutical interventions.
Sources:
Lawlor, DA. Davey Smith, G. Ebrahim, S. (June 2004). “Commentary: the hormone replacement-coronary heart disease conundrum: is this the death of observational epidemiology?”. International Journal of Epidemiol 33 (3): 464–7. PMID 15166201.

National Center for Biotechnology Information (2010). Osteoporosis Thin Bones. Bethesda, MD: U.S. National Library of Medicine. Last reviewed: January 4, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001400; last accessed 20 February 2011.

Hyman, M. The Blood Sugar Solution. Little, Brown and Company. New York, NY: 1 edition. 2012. Visit: http://drhyman.com/first-time-here/
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