A recent study suggests that male runners who do not get enough energy from their diet may be at risk for stress fractures.
The study’s findings will be presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia. “Our findings suggest that male runners, including recreational runners, should be counselled on the importance of adequate nutrition and caloric intake to optimise hormones, body composition, and bone health, as well as to prevent stress fractures,” said lead researcher Melanie S. Haines, M.D. of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Female athletes who are malnourished are at risk for low bone density and stress fractures, according to Haines. “However, whether a comparable mechanism occurs in male players is unknown,” she noted.
The researchers recruited 15 male runners and 16 male non-athlete controls ranging in age from 16 to 30 years. They measured their bone density, body composition, and hormone levels in their blood. They discovered that athletes had lower bone density in the tibial cortex, or the outer shell of bone in the lower leg, than controls. Stress fractures, which develop in the outer shell of the bone, may be more common among male runners as a result of this.
Lower bone strength in the lower leg was related with lower weight and muscle mass, as well as lower levels of hormones associated with fat mass (such as leptin and oestrogen).
“We assume that a subset of male runners are not getting enough nutrients and calories to sustain their bodies for their high level of physical exercise. The resulting malnutrition has a deleterious impact on hormones and bone. Getting adequate calcium and vitamin D alone will not suffice to compensate for other macronutrient and micronutrient deficits “Haines makes a point.
Hormones have a critical role in bone health and strength. Hormone imbalances in the body can lead to decreased bone density and an increased risk of fracture. The Endocrine Society acknowledges a variety of risk factors for poor bone strength in young males, including low body weight or excessive weight loss, calcium-deficient diets, low vitamin D and testosterone levels, and eating disorders.
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