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Though previously under-estimated, the pervasive impact of blood sugar on multiple body systems has finally become the subject of many studies. In a study published July 13, 2015, by the medical journal Bone, researches looked at the bone’s ability to heal in the presence of poor blood-sugar control. Poor blood-sugar control is an issue for the average American, who consumes far too much sugar. The study sheds light on whether or not diabetes weakens bone stem cells.

When a bone breaks, it begins an elaborate choreographed series of events. First, an amazing multifunctional type of blood clot called a fracture hematoma (a clot made from bone marrow) is formed to keep the broken edges of the bone together. This same clot deliberately causes the broken edges of the bone to die. The bone death signals the body’s troops to come in to clean up the place. Stem cells that live in the marrow clot orchestrate the repair like a general contractor. Osteoclasts remove the dead bone. Fibroblasts add collagen to form a callus. Chondrocytes toughen the callus with fibrocartilage. Finally, osteoblasts arrive on the scene to produce new bone.

Recent studies have shown that fractures are over represented in the diabetic population. To explore whether there might be a direct connection, the new study used mice with high blood sugar and mice without high blood sugar as controls. The mice were exposed to specific physical stress for three minutes a day for five days. What researchers found was that both crucial osteocyte signaling and the ability to remove dead bone were impaired in the diabetic mice. The conclusion was that hyperglycemia adversely affects both the oseteoblasts and mesenchymal stem cells in bone, lessening the bones’ ability to handle physical stress and heal.

One out of every six hip-fracture patients die within the first year post-fracture, making such fractures a life-threatening concern. Understanding the link between diabetes and bone fracture is critical, given that many older Americans end up with type 2 diabetics, all of which is preventable. While this study focused on type 1 diabetes, other studies have shown that metabolic syndrome affects bone health and healing. So pass the doughnut shop, and go out for a brisk walk or jog instead.

“Diabetes Weakens Bone Stem Cells Increasing Fracture Risk” first appeared as a post on the Regenexx blog.