Study: Osteoporosis drugs add five years to lifespan

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People who take osteoporosis medications from a class of drugs called bisphosphonates appear to live five years longer than people without osteoporosis, a new Australian study finds.

Researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, based in Sydney, studied data from an ongoing study involving about 2,000 people. A sub-group of 121 individuals were treated with bisphosphonates for three years. Compared to another group on treatments such as Vitamin D (with or without calcium) or hormone therapy (for women), the bisphosphonate-taking group was associated with a clear and marked longer lifespan, the data revealed, according to researchers.

After testing a few different theories, investigators eventually hypothesized that bones act as a repository for toxic metals such as lead and cadmium. "So when people get older, they lose bone,” researchers wrote. “When this happens, these toxic materials are released back into the body and may adversely affect health. By preventing bone loss, bisphosphonates prevent some of this toxic metal release,” they concluded.

The researchers said they need to conduct more studies to test this hypothesis, though. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.