A little-known fact about major weight loss is that bone mass often goes with it, but scientists claim to have discovered a way to circumvent this using the body's hormones.
The hormone GLP-1 that's found in the intestine, could not only prevent your bones from becoming fragile and fracture-prone due to rapid or major weight loss, but could also help keep blood sugar levels steady, according to the study.
Already used to treat type 2 diabetes, liraglutide is an example of a GLP-1 analogue hormone.
Previous research has found evidence that liraglutide and others like it do not increase bone fractures when used to treat type 2 diabetes whereas bone density loss is often a negative side effect of other solutions.
"Liraglutide has just been approved for obesity treatment because of its appetite-inhibiting effects, but its effect on the bones of overweight patients who are not suffering from type 2 diabetes has so far been unknown," says Dr. Eva Winning Jepsen from the University of Copenhagen.
In the study, the researchers observed 37 female participants who had lost up to 12 kg by eating a low-calorie diet — half of the participants had been treated with the GLP-1 analogue liraglutide and a control group who hadn't.
Over the course of one year, the research team helped the women to maintain their weight loss, giving them frequent dietary advice.
If they gained weight, they were asked to substitute up to two meals with a low-calorie powder.
When the year was over, all participants had maintained their weight loss, but the control group had done so by replacing one meal per day with low-calorie fare.
"The liraglutide group did not have to do this as they kept their weight loss due to inhibition of appetite," study author Signe Sorenson Torekov of the University of Copenhagen told Relaxnews.
The group treated with liraglide had not lost any bone mass and samples of their blood showed increased levels of bone formation markers — the products of bone cells, expressed as bones gain density.
On the flipside, the control group had lost bone mass, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
"Menopausal women have an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures," says Torekov. "If they try to lose weight and thus lose even more bone mass, they are at an even higher risk. The study shows that overweight women can now lose weight with liraglutide without increasing the risk of losing bone mass."
The study bears significant implications for treating obesity with GLP-1 analogues, especially for women.