Osteoporosis is a disease which causes bones to become fragile and easily broken. While it can affect anybody, the most susceptible to developing osteoporosis are women who are post-menopausal, this being considered Type I Osteoporosis. This project will show how bone development is hormonally regulated, and when those hormones are not being produced the bones are not capable of developing correctly, causing porous and brittle bones.
When women go through menopause, they experience a severe drop in estrogen, one of the most important hormones associated with bone development in women. There are three primary types of estrogen: estrone, estradiol, and estriol. Before menopause, the primary type of estrogen is estradiol, while after menopause estrone becomes the most abundant. This is due to the fact that the ovaries are the production source of estradiol, so when the process of menopause begins, the ovaries are no longer creating that form of estrogen. Unfortunately, this is detrimental to bone health in women, as estradiol is essential in dictating osteoblastic activity.
Osteoblasts are the cells which are responsible for building new bones, while their counterparts, osteoclasts, are responsible for breaking down old bones. Where osteoblasts are influenced by the absorption rate of calcium, which is determined by estrogen levels, osteoclasts are controlled by the parathyroid hormone. During menopause, women experience a sharp decline in estrogen production, however, the parathyroid hormone continues to be produced at normal levels. This means that the osteoclasts will continue to break down bones, but without the estrogen present to increase the calcium absorption rate, osteoblasts will not continue building new bones at the rate necessary to keep up with the osteoclastic activity. Eventually, the osteoclasts will have broken down all of the old bone, and will start eating away at the new bones, causing them to be porous and fragile.
While post-menopausal women are the primary victims of osteoporosis, everyone has the possibility of developing the disease without proper care, especially those who are currently dealing with, or have previously dealt with an eating disorder. Malnutrition resulting from an eating disorder can result in a serious lack of calcium with which to build and strengthen bones. If this malnutrition begins at a young age when the bones are still in the process of being initially built, the long-term effects include early-onset osteoporosis possibly without the possibility of reversing the bone loss even after the eating disorder has been treated.
Treatment for osteoporosis includes hormone therapy as well as calcium and vitamin D supplements or changes in diet. Typically, a combination works best, however each person may experience better results choosing supplements over dietary changes, and some may find hormone therapy isn’t necessary if they increase their calcium and vitamin D intakes.
The cake below shows an example of a healthy bone versus a bone which is lacking in calcium (or butter in this case). The cake on the left shows a bone which has enough calcium: it is dense and strong enough to hold itself together, and capable of withstanding trauma. On the right, the cake is missing a critical ingredient which would stabilize the cake. Without the butter, the cake crumbles with minimal effort, just like a bone without calcium.
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