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Estrogen is Important for Bone Health in Men as Well as Women

that men with higher levels of active estrogen metabolites also tended to have higher bone density. Conversely, men with lower levels of these hormones tended to have lower bone density.

Testosterone levels did not affect bone density in these study subjects. Testosterone seems to be responsible for the larger size and thicker outer layers of male bones, but estrogen is possibly a key hormone for maintaining peak bone mineral mass in men, according to the authors.

The researchers also looked at whether other factors, including smoking, alcohol consumption, daily calcium intake and body mass index (BMI) affected bone density. Only BMI correlated with bone density: Men with higher BMI tended to have higher bone density, possibly because they also had higher levels of active estrogen metabolites.

Fractures due to osteoporosis are a significant health threat in the elderly. According to Villareal, 25 percent of those who suffer a hip fracture die within a year, and 40-50 percent have some degree of disability or need nursing home care. "It's a very serious problem," she says. "People of retirement age are looking forward to their leisure time, but if they fracture a hip, there are so many things they won't be able to do."

Villareal thinks the health-care system may need to reflect what research is now revealing about estrogen in men. "It would be a good idea to measure estrogen levels in older men who present with low bone mineral density or osteoporosis," Villareal says. "Not only does estrogen and its metabolism affect bone health in men, but it may also influence the risk for prostate cancer."


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