Objective: This study evaluates the relationship of blood osteoprotegerin (OPG) and receptor activator of nuclear κ-B ligand (RANKL) levels with coronary artery calcium (CAC) and cardiovascular risk factors in two studies of postmenopausal women. OPG, a marker of bone turnover, and its ligand, RANKL, may contribute to cardiovascular disease risk.
Methods: We tested the hypothesis that serum OPG and RANKL levels were associated with CAC and cardiovascular disease risk factors among postmenopausal women in the Women On the Move through Activity and Nutrition Study (WOMAN Study; n = 86; mean [SD], age 58 [2.9] y) and replicated our findings in the Healthy Women Study (HWS; n = 205; mean [SD] age, 61 [2.3] y). Serum OPG, total RANKL, and CAC were measured at baseline and 48 months in the WOMAN Study and on the eighth postmenopausal visit in the HWS.
Results: In the WOMAN Study, higher OPG was associated with higher CAC, and higher total RANKL was associated with lower CAC and triglycerides. In the HWS, higher total RANKL was also associated with lower CAC and triglycerides. In logistic regression models adjusted for body mass index and triglycerides, the odds ratios (95% CIs) for CAC per unit increase in OPG were 1.78 (1.17-2.73) for the WOMAN Study and 1.02 (0.84-1.24) for the HWS, and the odds ratios (95% CIs) for CAC per unit increase in log total RANKL were 0.86 (0.64-1.17) for the WOMAN Study and 0.83 (0.72-0.96) for the HWS.
Conclusions: The inverse association of total RANKL with CAC and triglycerides is a new finding and may have important implications given the increasing use of drugs that modify total RANKL and its receptor, receptor activator of nuclear κ-B.