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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 06:28 GMT
Vitamin link to bone loss probed
Dexa machine
Those taking part in the study will get a bone scan
Scientists in Northern Ireland are to investigate if B-vitamin supplements can help prevent osteoporosis.

The University of Ulster scientists are based at the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) at the Coleraine campus.

They are recruiting healthy post-menopausal women, aged 45 and over, for the bone study.

Osteoporosis - loss of bone density, mass and strength - affects about three million people in the UK.

It is more common in women than men and Professor Helene McNulty said a new risk factor has been suggested for osteoporosis.

"Increased amounts of homocysteine in the blood may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis," she said.

"High homocysteine has also been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and strokes."

Genetic links

Individuals who have a poor dietary intake of B-vitamins tend to have high homocysteine levels.

In addition, some people have a genetic make-up that causes them to have a higher homocysteine level and these people may have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.

"Studies have found that when B-vitamin intake is improved, homocysteine levels are lowered and this offers the possibility of a novel way to reduce osteoporosis," Prof McNulty added.

The university study is aimed at determining if post-menopausal women with a particular genetic make-up can benefit from B-vitamin supplementation to lower homocysteine levels and, therefore, reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Those women deemed suitable will be given a DEXA bone scan which is the most accurate way of assessing bone health.

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