by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Over the past twenty years, women have been hearing more and more about the grave dangers of osteoporosis, and its precursors, osteopenia and osteomalacia. Simultaneously, prescriptions for drugs that build bone density, like Fosamax and Actonel, have risen quickly, with no research to support their safety and efficacy for long-term use.

Admittedly, osteoporosis is a serious condition that sharply raises the risk of a debilitating fracture in older women—but it is treatable and easily preventable. What troubles me is the growing number of younger women who are being labeled “at risk” for osteoporosis and given prescriptions. By mainstream medicine standards, almost half of white baby-boomer women in this country are considered at risk—no wonder the makers of Fosamax boast that they’ll have 40% of American women on their product in the near future. It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog.

What doesn’t get said is that a certain annual rate of bone loss is a natural part of aging,  (between 1-1.5% per year, with a few years of acceleration after menopause) and that bone loss is a necessary stimulant to bone formation. What’s more, studies just don’t support the connection between maintaining bone density and a decrease in fractures later in life.

Read our articles on Osteoporosis to learn more!