KU researcher links brain atrophy and bone density

27 January 2010

Kansas City, Kansas – The importance of maintaining muscle mass and bone density for the elderly is becoming more clear, say researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). A study conducted by the University of Kansas Alzheimer and Memory Program was published in Volume 18:4 of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in December 2009.

Alzheimer’s disease is associated with both shrinkage of the brain and related decline in cognitive skills such as memory. Additionally, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease face a higher risk of falls and an increased incidence of fractures than healthy older adults. The study found that both men and women with Alzheimer’s have markedly lower bone density even in the earliest stages of the disease, and that the level of bone loss was associated with reduced brain volume and memory skills.

Jeffrey Burns, MD, MS, Director of the Alzheimer and Memory Program, and Natalia Loskutova, MD, a graduate student in the KU School of Allied Health, studied 140 patients, 71 with Alzheimer’s disease and 69 in a control group to compare bone health in the earliest clinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease with non-demented aging. “Our study found that those with more brain shrinkage and memory deficits had lower bone density and vice versa, those with higher bone density had less brain shrinkage and better memory,” said Dr. Burns.

Understanding the relationship between bone loss and Alzheimer’s disease may provide strategies for effective prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and reduce the burden of bone fractures in Alzheimer’s patients.

For more information about the research, outreach, or programs at the University of Kansas Medical Center, call 913-256-KUMC (5862).

Stephanie Sharp
University of Kansas Medical Center
Tel: 913-256-KUMC (5862)