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Does Hepatitis C Increase Osteoporosis Susceptibility?

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. September 20, 2013

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Particularly valuable for senior citizens with chronic Hepatitis C, eating a nutritious diet seems to help protect against osteoporosis.

A health condition that increases the likelihood of fracturing a bone, osteoporosis seems to be more prevalent in those with the Hepatitis C virus. Could it be a coincidence that osteoporosis typically affects those in their golden years and that baby boomers constitute a majority of Hepatitis C infections in the U.S.? Although experts disagree about the relationship between Hepatitis C and osteoporosis, a study cites how those with this common liver virus can protect against osteoporotic bones.

About Osteoporosis

Most of us think of bone as a hard, solid structure, but bone’s strength is due the density inside its complex infrastructure. In general, higher bone density means stronger bone. Often referred to as porous bones, osteoporosis describes a loss of bone density.

A living body structure, our bones are constantly changing via a renewal process. This is called bone remodeling – the ongoing replacement of old bone tissue by new bone tissue. This involves two steps:

  1. Bone resorption – the removal of minerals and collagen fibers from bone
  2. Bone deposition – the addition of minerals and collagen fibers to bone

Typically the result of an endocrine imbalance or poor calcium metabolism, osteoporosis occurs when bone resorption outpaces bone deposition. This is usually due to calcium depletion. When calcium is pulled off the bones faster than it can be replaced, it leaves them thinned, brittle, chalky and prone to injury.

Bone density naturally decreases after age 35, and is five times more likely in women than men.

Common after menopause, experts estimate that about half of women over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. Osteoporotic bone fractures are responsible for considerable pain, decreased quality of life, lost workdays and disability – making osteoporosis a formidable foe.

Hepatitis C and Osteoporosis

Affecting an estimated four to five million Americans, Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. Although seemingly distinct from bone density, various studies and physician reports indicate a relationship between Hepatitis C and osteoporosis.

Some physicians believe that a Vitamin D metabolism impairment (common with Hepatitis C) could be the link between these two conditions. Severe Hepatitis C and Vitamin D deficiency can cause hyperparathyroidism, causing increased bone turnover and accelerated bone density loss.

  • According to a 2009 Pakistani study, osteoporosis was a common finding in those with cirrhosis due to Hepatitis C. In addition, the researchers found that osteoporosis is more frequent in those who have had Hepatitis C for many years.
  • According to a 2012 American study, HIV and Hepatitis C co-infection is associated with an increased rate of hip fracture compared to those infected with one illness (Hepatitis C or HIV). The researchers proposed that inflammation associated with chronic viral infection might promote bone loss. They also suggested that antiretroviral therapy and lifestyle factors common in this population – such as heavy alcohol or drug use, smoking, and poor nutrition – may play a role too.

Although the relationship (if there actually is one) between Hepatitis C and osteoporosis is likely complex, Spanish researchers recently found a way to avoid osteoporosis development in this population. As published in the January 2013 edition of The European Journal of Internal Medicine, poor nutrition is a catalyst to the concurrence of Hepatitis C and osteoporosis. Potentially related to sufficient Vitamin D, chronic Hepatitis C infection in well-nourished patients with preserved liver function was not a factor in osteoporotic bones.

Especially because those most vulnerable to osteoporosis (post-menopausal women) tend to have a higher rate of Hepatitis C than younger generations, the need to consume a healthy, well-rounded diet has never been more important. Based on the new study out of Spain, eating well to support abundant bone deposition can empower those with Hepatitis C to prevent the additional challenge of living with osteoporosis.

References:, Hep C and Heavy Drinking Tied to Bone Fractures, Retrieved January 13, 2013, Smart + Strong, 2013., HIV/HCV Coinfected People Have Higher Risk of Hip Fractures, Liz Highleyman, Retrieved January 13, 2013,, 2013., Osteoporosis, William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, Retrieved January 13, 2013, MedicineNet, Inc., 2013., Frequency of osteoporosis in patients with cirrhosis due to hepatitis B and hepatitis C: a study of 100 cases, Javed M, et al, Retrieved January 13, 2013, Journal of Ayub Medical College, Abbottabad, July-September 2009., Bone alterations in hepatitis C virus infected patients, Pelazas-Gonzalez R, et al, Retrieved January 13, 2013, The European Journal of Internal Medicine, January 2013., Bone Metabolism Disorders in Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection (pp.45-66), Germán López-Larramona, Retrieved January 13, 2013, Nova Science Publishers, 2013.



Possibility to Reestablish Immunity in Those with Hepatitis C

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Does Gay Sex Spread Hepatitis C?

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  • hepc free now

    I’ve experience signitficant bone density loss, and more than 5 fracture in the last 10 years… 1sr 3 fractures in my right shoulder, breaking the “ball of the shouler” still disabled from that one.. 2 fractures in my nose (one from accident, one from trying to open nasal passage) and 5 in my spine, most recently 6 weeks ago..
    This is not fun.. I am 68.. and now, and just finished a clinical trial for Hep C and am now HCV free.. but what a price to pay, not to mention the cirrhosis they found when diagnosed (not an IV drug user or alcoholic)…. eat healhy and lose weight if possible.. and stay healthy… Cheers

    • Bonnie free

      Congrats!! May God bless you with many, many more years of healthy living!

  • Lucky

    I have had 4 compression fractures in my vertebrae. I too was in a clinical trial to get rid of my Hepititas C. I was successful in clearing the virus but most defiantly have severe ostroprosis. I am a 59 year old male that also had a liver transplant due to the Hepititas.
    Dealing with these stress fractures from ostroprosis is the most pain I have ever experienced.