Apart from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) frequent flyers now have another risk to contend with: the chance of developing osteoporosis.

Continuous limitation on good sleep and disturbances to the body’s internal clock caused by frequent flights can be one of the reasons for bone loss in young adults, says a study.

Conducted by the University of Colorado and released at the Endocrine Society’s 99th Annual Meeting in Orlando, the study found that young men, who were sleep deprived and whose circadian rhythm was disrupted, had greater reduction in levels of P1NP (a marker of bone formation in blood) at 27 per cent compared to 18 per cent in older men.

Circadian rhythm disruption is the disparity between a body’s internal clock and the external environment that arises when a person’s routine is not aligned with the 24 hour clock. However the CTX levels or the bone resorption marker was the same indicating that the old bone breaks down without a new bone forming.

‘When the old bone breaks down and no new bone forms in its place, the bone loss window can lead to osteoporosis. In osteoporosis bones become weak and brittle and this hereby increases the risk of fractures,’ says Dr. Ottmar Gorchewsky, specialist orthopedic surgeon at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery in Dubai.

‘The study shows that sporadic sleep patterns affects bone metabolism quite early in life – especially at a time when bone growth is essential for skeletal health longevity.’

Participants who volunteered for the study fell asleep each day four hours later than they did the previous day to create a 28-hour day. The volunteers were monitored over a three-week period. They also slept for under six hours a day to mimic the effects of those who work split shift jobs or have jet lag due to accruing frequent flyer miles for work.

‘Those who are required to travel frequently could be at risk,’ says the doctor. ‘A busy lifestyle can have serious implications for the future leading to conditions such as osteoporosis and making them more susceptible to fractures.

‘In order to ensure optimal skeletal system health, young executives should ensure they get ample rest. It is important to put health first to avoid long term complications.’

He suggests a few tips to counter the effects:

• Stopping smoking should be a priority

• Regular exercise improves the strength of the bones

• A good Calcium and vitamin D intake is essential throughout life for healthy bones

• A diet including non-dairy food sources of calcium, nuts and pulses such as almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds

• Green leafy vegetables: Broccoli, Spinach, Watercress, Curly Kale

• Dried fruits: Apricots, Dates, Figs

• Fish: Mackerel, Pilchards, Salmon, Sardines

• Tofu and various calcium fortified foods