On Our Age-Related Bone Loss: Insights from a New Paradigm


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Abstract

Bone strength and "mass" normally adapt to the largest voluntary loads on bones. The loads come from muscles, not body weight. Bone modeling can increase bone strength and "mass," bone remodeling can conserve or reduce them, and each can turn ON and OFF in response to its own threshold range of bone strains. During growth, the loads on bones from body weight and muscle forces increase, and modeling correspondingly increases bone strength and "mass." In young adults those loads usually plateau, so bone strength can "catch up" and modeling can turn OFF. Meanwhile remodeling keeps existing bone. After about 30 years of age, muscle strength usually decreases. In aging adults this would put bones that had adapted to stronger young-adult muscles into partial disuse and make remodeling begin to reduce their strength and "mass," as disuse regularly does in experimental situations in other mammals, both growing and adult. Those changes associate strongly with the size of the bone strains caused by the loads on bone. While nonmechanical effects associated with aging should contribute to that age-related bone loss too, a new skeletal paradigm suggests the above mechanical influences would dominate control of the process in time and anatomical space.

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