|Q. Can ipriflavone supplements help prevent bone loss? |
A. Maybe. Although a new European study has cast some doubt on the effectiveness of ipriflavone, the preponderance of evidence suggests it may help maintain?even increase?bone density in postmenopausal women, especially if calcium is taken too.
Ipriflavone is a synthetic compound structurally similar to the natural isoflavones (phytoestrogens) found in soy and appears to have the same bone-building benefits; laboratory studies show it inhibits bone breakdown and stimulates new bone formation. But unlike phytoestrogens, it doesn’t appear to exert estrogenic effects on breast and uterine tissue. Ipriflavone is sold abroad as a drug, but as a supplement in the U.S.
Previous Evidence. Numerous studies over the past decade have shown that ipriflavone can prevent the rapid bone loss that immediately follows menopause. In one study, 56 postmenopausal women with low bone mass took either 600 milligrams ipriflavone or a placebo daily. Both groups also took 1,000 milligrams of calcium. After two years, the women in the ipriflavone group maintained their bone mass; those taking only calcium experienced significant loss.
Other studies cite actual increases in bone density (as much as 3% in postmenopausal women and 6% in women with osteoporosis) and fewer fractures.
A Wrench in the Research. But in the March 21 Journal of the American Medical Association, a study of 292 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis found no differences in bone density or bone turnover between those taking ipriflavone and those taking placebo for three years. However, both groups took only 500 milligrams of calcium, perhaps not enough to optimize ipriflavone’s effects.
Most troublesome was a reported drop in lymphocytes (white blood cells) in the ipriflavone group. The clinical relevance of this isn’t known, as all the participants remained healthy. The balance of studies still favors ipriflavone, but more research into its long-term safety is needed.
EN‘s Take. Ipriflavone, along with calcium supplementation, may help prevent age-related bone loss. (And don’t forget other bone-building nutrients, like vitamin D and magnesium). If so, it’s an attractive alternative for postmenopausal women who are not on hormone therapy. If you take ipriflavone, have your lymphocytes monitored by your doctor. Be aware that ipriflavone may interfere with the asthma medication theophylline. Mild stomach upset is also possible.
For quality assurance, look for trademarked Ostivone ipriflavone, found in many bone formula brands. A dose that mirrors research levels is 200 milligrams three times a day or 300 milligrams twice a day.
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