Tobacco, Bone and Osteoporosis

It’s not just your heart and lungs that are punished by a smoking habit

Shag (tobacco)

Shag (tobacco) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Identifying the risks of tobacco use has been done by research scientists and reported by numerous media outlets, scientific journals, and even popular films are touching the subject. Most often tobacco use, depending if chewed or smoked, can increase the risks of lip and gum cancer, heart disease, lung and the esophageal cancer and chronic lung disease. Though not discussed as often as the above, research scientists have identified tobacco as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone fracture.

This discovery was made more than 20 years ago, but  now studies show a direct relationship between tobacco use and decreased bone mass density. Identifying this risk factor has been complex for researchers as other risk factors are often associated with tobacco use. Having a lower level of physical activity, for example can also contribute to low bone mass density, but is affiliated with tobacco use, therefore researchers were not sure if the reason that smokers had low bone mass density was because of their tobacco consumption, or their lack of exercise, or both. The following are some factors that contribute to low bone mass density, and are also associated with tobacco use:

  • Low level of physical activity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Greater than normal alcohol use

Most studies suggest that smoking increases the risk of fracture based on how much tobacco is consumed. This means the problem is cumulative. Not all studies suggest this, but more research is being done to understand bone density with long-term smoking/tobacco use.

What to do? Stop smoking now

Quitting immediately can help limit the potential loss of bone mass density later in life, thereby decreasing the chances of osteopenia or osteoperosis. Being already compromised from a bone mass perspective it would be advisable for a smoker to increase consumption of foods associated with higher levels of bone mass density. Optimally, dark green leafy vegetables, specifically broccoli, as well as dairy, and calcium supplements. Vitamin D increases the levels of retention of calcium; therefore individuals should attempt to increase their vitamin D levels by getting natural sunlight on their skin, and consuming food sources of vitamin D, such as eggs, ocean fish, and liver products.

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