Although osteoporosis may be caused by a variety of factors (endocrine, mechanical and metabolic), it is now believed that there may be an inflammatory component. Osteoporosis is associated with other inflammatory diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. C-reactive protein blood levels can be used as an indicator of inflammation in osteoporosis.
The subject of this paper is vitamin E and its effects on bone-resorbing cytokines*, especially IL-1 and IL-6. This has been studied in rats, wherein stress caused an increase in IL-1 and in IL-6 (an indicator of inflammation). The results were osteoporotic changes in the rats’ bones. (IL-1 and IL-6 are produced by monocytes of the blood and osteoblasts of bone.)
Vitamin E is a complex of antioxidant chemicals which can be classified as tocopherols and tocotrienols. When the rats were given vitamin E as tocotrienol and alpha-tocopherol, blood levels of IL-1 and IL-6 were lowered and osteoporotic changes in the bones were prevented. Tocotrienols were better than alpha-tocopherol at suppressing levels of inflammatory cytokines.
Smoking is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Nicotine inhibits bone growth (osteoblast activity) and stimulates bone destruction (osteoclastic) activity. Aging is a risk factor for osteoporosis, and inflammatory cytokine levels do tend to increase with age.
CONCLUSION: There is a growing awareness that there is an inflammatory component to osteoporosis. Vitamin E as tocotrienols has stronger anti-osteoporotic activity than tocopherols. This could be due to both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
NOTE: *Cytokines are tiny protein released by a variety of cells which send signals to other cells and sometimes to itself. Interleukins are among the subcategories of cytokines. IL-1 and IL-6 are pro-inflammatory cytokines.
NOTE: Maintenance of healthy bone involves a balance of bone destruction (osteoblastic) and bone formation (osteoclastic). An imbalance in these two processes can result in bone disease.
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