A new study by the Seoul National University Medical Research Center has found that those with asthma are more likely to have low bone density in the lumbar region of their spine (the area between the ribs and pelvis).
The study looked at the health records of over seven thousand patients. 216 of them tested positive for asthma and, on average, had lower bone density in the lumbar region than those without asthma. However, most of the asthmatics were still in the normal range when it came to overall bone density. The researchers weren’t able to conclude which came first-- the bone density issues or the asthma-- or how the two are related.
This may be a case of correlation rather than causation. Previous studies have linked the use of inhaled steroids (which many people take to treat asthma) to loss in bone density. Steroids can stop calcium from being absorbed, thereby limiting bone formation. So perhaps it’s not the asthma, but the asthma medication causing low bone density.
Another theory is that lifestyle changes adopted by people with asthma cause the decrease in bone density. For example, there’s a myth that dairy products trigger asthma attacks. That’s true only if you’re allergic to dairy. Many asthmatics avoid dairy unnecessarily and therefore have a calcium-deficient diet which leads to low bone density and possibly osteoporosis. Some asthmatics also don’t exercise, hoping to avoid exercise-induced asthma. But weight-bearing exercise is another important ingredient in good bone health.
The link between asthma and low bone density is most likely caused by a variety of factors. Either way, if you have asthma it’s a good idea to watch your bone health, get plenty of calcium, and exercise safely.