In today’s shoot-me-in-the-face news, bone fat is a thing.
Don’t worry – a new study shows that, just like regular old body fat, exercise can get rid of it. But, yeah, your bones have fat.
Specifically, your bone marrow. Aside from being the “hub of activity” that creates bones, cartilage, immune and blood cells, it also produces fat.
Marrow fat was previously thought of as a reserve in the body unaffected by exercise the way other fatty deposits elsewhere are burned during a workout. Having a higher amount of marrow fat increases the risk of fractures and other bone problems but the new study shows that cardio workouts, like running, affect bone fat as well.
Reducing bone marrow fat improves bone quality and the actual amount of bone a person has. And, this study showed it’s possible in just a few weeks.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina Health Care conducted a study with mice and saw that the stem cells they produced in their bones and fat are the same cells that people create, suggesting the research can be applied to humans, too.
The study’s author, Dr. Maya Styner, says that her research could be helpful for those suffering from bone ailments like diabetes, arthritis, anorexia and osteoporosis.
“I see a lot of patients with poor bone health, and I always talk to them about what a dramatic effect exercise can have on bones, regardless of what the cause of their bone condition is,” Styner said.
The study used two groups of mice – one lean, the other obese – and gave half of each group access to an exercise wheel. At random points over six weeks, the researchers analyzed the marrow fat and bone quantity of each and saw that all of the mice who ran had a significant reduction in fat cell size, count (by half) and the amount of fat in their marrow. In the end, the marrow fat of the obese but exercising mice looked virtually identical to that of the lean, healthier mice.
“If we want to take this technique to the human level, we could study marrow fat in humans in a much more reliable fashion now,” said Styner. “And our work shows this is possible.”