Iowa livestock producers who spend a lot of time in hog confinements may want to take note of a new medical study which finds a direct tie between the dust inhaled in hog barns and bone loss.
The study’s principal investigator, Doctor Jill Poole at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, says they found what may prove to be a simple way to prevent the condition.
Dr. Poole says, “We determined that vitamin D actually protected the bones against the bone loss induced by inhaling the dust in the mouse models.” Vitamin D can be taken in tablet form or, something that’s much easier for farmers, just by exposing your skin to the sun. As part of the study, the lab mice were given high doses of vitamin D.
“We showed that it helps protect the lungs of the mice against a single or acute exposure, like when you go in one time to a confinement facility,” Poole says. “We found just a little bit of benefit with vitamin D with repeated exposures for three weeks.” Earlier studies showed vitamin D helps reduce inflammation in the lungs and the new data suggests chronic lung inflammation is a risk factor for both bone loss and fractures.
“Agriculture workers have high rates of muscle-skeletal disease and high rates of fracture so they need to be thinking about their bones and they need to be thinking of it when they’re young,” Poole says, “because this inflammation they’re getting from inhaling those dusts can be effecting the rest of their body, not just their lungs.” She says studies in humans are warranted to determine if vitamin D can improve health outcomes.