(HealthDay News) — The risk of fractures increases with both weight gain and loss in older women, according to a new study published January 27 in The BMJ.

The study, by Carolyn Crandall, MD, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine, and colleagues included data from 120,566 healthy postmenopausal women in the United States. The women were between the ages of 50–79 years old. Their health status was followed for an average of 11 years.

A weight loss of ≥5% was associated with a 65% higher risk of hip fracture, according to the researchers. They also found a 9% higher risk of upper limb fracture, and a 30% higher risk of central body fracture (hip, pelvis, and spine) with weight loss. A weight gain of ≥5% was linked to a 10% higher risk of upper limb fracture and an 18% higher risk of lower limb fracture. The investigators also found that unintentional weight loss was associated with a higher risk of hip and spine fractures. Intentional weight loss was associated with a higher risk of lower limb fractures, but a lower risk of hip fractures.

These findings challenge the widely held belief that weight gain protects older women against fractures, the researchers write. It’s the first study to examine how weight changes affect older women’s fracture risk in different parts of the body, and offers important information for doctors.

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