Women had better bones 200 years ago

Click to follow
A woman of 70 living more than 200 years ago had healthier, harder bones which were less likely to break than those of a woman of the same age alive today, writes Liz Hunt.

Scientists examined thigh bones taken from skeletons of women buried in Spitalfields, London, between 1729 and 1852, and found that the rate of bone loss with age was significantly lower. After the menopause and the decline in oestrogen levels, women lose bone mass and are at risk of osteoporosis, when their bones become fragile and brittle. Hip fractures, which are reaching epidemic proportions among elderly women, are one consequence.

The study, in the Lancet tomorrow, suggests that a decline in the physical activity of women between the centuries is the most likely explanation - although environmental factors may play a role. Exercise has been shown to make bones harder, and the benefits of modern life - better nutrition, hygiene and health care - cannot offset the effects of a more sedentary lifestyle. In addition, an obsession with weight control and dieting today is also taking its toll.