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 This Simple Laboratory Test Can Give You Early Information on Bone Loss 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Women's Nutrition Detective by . View all columns in series
Your bones are not dry, dead sticks holding your body together. They're made from living tissue that is constantly breaking down and rebuilding itself. Old bone cells are being replaced with new ones in a process known as "remodeling."

When you were young, your body made large numbers of new cells to keep up with your bone growth. But when you were in your 30s, your bones stopped growing and your need for new cells decreased.

At this time, your body began to make fewer new cells. Your bone tissue still kept breaking down, however. This increased the gap between your bones breaking down and building up. As we get older, this gap continues to widen. By the time we reach menopause, our bone tissue may very well be breaking down faster than it can build. The consequence is thinner bones and a higher risk for fractures.

You're never too old — or too young — to take a look at how your bones are being formed. The problem is, doctors are relying on one method alone, and it's not enough. They usually measure bone density — one marker for osteoporosis — with tests like dual X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) and ultrasound. I've never particularly liked either as accurate predictors of bone health. All they do is take a snapshot of your bone that says, "This is what your bone looks like today." They can’t tell you how quickly your bones are breaking down and how well they're rebuilding themselves.

But I've found a simple urine test that can do this very thing. It's not expensive and most insurance companies, including Medicare, pay for it. This test will tell you if your rate of bone loss is high before anything can be detected with common bone scans. Just how important is it to identify how fast your bones are breaking down? One study I just read shows that bone resorption (breakdown) is a better predictor for hip fractures than the more familiar tests that measure bone mass.

This urine test does not subject you to even minute quantities of harmful radiation. What's more, instead of having to wait a year or two for another bone density test to measure your progress or deterioration, you can repeat this urine test in three months and find out whether or not the particular therapy you’ve chosen is working.

It's about measuring your Dpd
Let me explain how this test works. When bone breaks down, it produces a byproduct called deoxypyridinoline (Dpd) that's excreted into the urine. A simple urine test, called Pyrilinks-D, measures the Dpd in your urine and determines whether or not your bones are breaking down faster than they're being rebuilt. If they are, you can talk with your doctor about some form of bone-saving therapy: exercise, hormones, medications, dietary changes, supplements, etc.

Then you can try the therapy of your choice and repeat this test in three months to see how well you're doing. No guesswork or waiting until it's too late. Combined with the DEXA or ultrasound, Pyrilinks-D gives a more complete evaluation than either one alone.

How accurate is this test? A group of researchers compared the Pyrilinks-D test to other bone resorption tests like Osteomark and CrossLaps. The Pyrilinks-D test had less variability than the others. In addition, its precision and accuracy was either equal or superior to the other two tests in all areas. This is an accurate test to measure your rate of bone loss.

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 About The Author
Nan Fuchs, Ph.D. is an authority on nutrition and the editor and writer of Women's Health Letter, the leading health advisory on nutritional healing for......moreNan Fuchs PhD
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