In part 2 of this 3-part series, we examine how CBD is being used for treating osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis (literally “porous bones”) is a very common condition that affects millions of people worldwide.
It’s characterized by a decrease in the density of bone which can become compressible, like a sponge. The lower the density in the bone, the less strength the bone has, which results in fragile bones that are susceptible to frequent fractures (or breaks).
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture once every 3 seconds. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50.
In the U.S., osteoporosis and low bone mass are currently estimated to be a major public health threat for almost 44 million women and men aged 50 and older representing roughly 55% of the people in that age group.
This problem is even more alarming when you consider that the U.S. population is expected to age considerably in the decades ahead. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its population of 43.1 million in 2012. Baby boomers are largely responsible for this increase in the older population, as they began turning 65 in 2011. By 2050, the surviving baby boomers will be over the age of 85.
The specter of an aging population and rising health care costs have forced the healthcare industry to focus hard on conditions like osteoporosis.
Because it is largely preventable, programs have been formed to promote eating a well-balanced diet, consuming calcium rich foods and avoiding toxins from smoke, alcohol and caffeine which all greatly reduce the chances of developing this disease.
Another major improvement is research into treatment options for osteoporosis. And one that’s showing great promise is in the use of CBD.
CBD’s role in treating osteoporosis
Normal bone is composed of protein, collagen, and calcium, all of which give bone its strength. But for people who suffer from osteoporosis, their bones become weak and fragile and are more prone to fracture.
Osteoporosis affected bones can break with relatively minor impact. Fractures can happen by cracking (as in a hip fracture) or collapsing (as in a compression fracture of the vertebrae of the spine). The spine, hips, ribs, and wrists are common areas of bone fractures from osteoporosis although osteoporosis-related fractures can occur in almost any skeletal bone.
Treatment for osteoporosis currently consists of bisphosphonates. They work by decreasing the activity of bone-dissolving cells. Bisphosphonates slow down the process of bone breakdown that occurs as you age.
However, side effects range from gastroesophageal irritation to more serious complications including osteonecrosis of the jaw (could cause bone in the jaw to die and break down) and severe suppression of bone turnover (decreases bone resorption and formation resulting in poor bone quality).
Thankfully, scientists are beginning to look at alternative treatments for osteoporosis. Although studies have not been conducted to test the theory yet, researchers believe that CBD could be a promising treatment. Here’s what they know so far:
- Because bone cells contain the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 and the orphan receptor GPR55, studies have shown that endocannabinoids and their receptors are involved in the development of osteoporosis.
- By blocking CB1, CB2 and GPR55 in adult mice, researchers have been able to suppress bone resorption, increase bone mass and protect against bone loss. This suggests that inverse agonists/antagonists (such as CBD) of these receptors may help combat osteoporosis.
- In a different study with mice and CBD, the effect of knocking out GPR55 showed an increase in the amount of both cortical (outer surface) and trabecular (spongy) bone. The knockout mice were fatter and were protected against age related bone loss. These results suggest that blocking GPR55 with small molecules such as CBD may be beneficial in treating osteoporosis.
From these early studies, clearly CBD shows great potential for playing a future role in the treatment of osteoporosis. This is especially true when compared with bisphosphonates which have been known to have serious side effects that could do more harm than good.
As the global population continues to age and healthcare costs rise, future studies into CBD for osteoporosis treatment will be crucial in reducing the heavy burden on society.
Part 1 of our 3-part series examined how CBD heals fractures and promotes bone growth. Part 2 has talked about CBD’s role in osteoporosis. In part 3, we will examine CBD’s role in arthritis.
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