A recent study has shed new light on the link between high cholesterol levels and osteoporosis, and described the role the immune system plays in bone loss.
The research was conducted at UCLA and used blood samples to isolate immune T cells. The scientists then combined half of the cells with normal LDL cholesterol and the rest with oxidized LDL and stimulated the cells to mimic an immune response. It soon became clear that the cells started producing a chemical called RANKL that in turn stimulates the growth of cells which destroy bone.
The next step in the process was to conduct a dietary study on animals which determined that T-cell in mice that were fed a high-cholesterol diet switched on the gene that produces RANKL.
Rita Effros, professor of pathology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, explains that it is normal for T cells to produce small amounts of RANKL during an immune response.
"But when RANKL is manufactured for long periods or at the wrong time, it results in excessive bone damage," she stresses.
Dietary supplements containing calcium and vitamin D are a good way to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.