Health & Wellness

Over-the-Counter Test Can Predict Osteoporosis

Your fingernails can tell you a lot about your risk for the illness

Photo: iStock/lolostock.


Those with osteoporosis often develop brittle nails. Now that researchers have come to better understand the connection, there’s hope that over-the-counter nail-testing kits for osteoporosis could soon be on the market in Canada as a viable alternative to x-ray scanning.

Osteoporosis is caused by a loss of bone density and increases one’s risk for bone fractures, with hip fractures being the most debilitating. Among Canadians over 50, the disease affects one in four women and one in eight men.

A study published in Clinical Medicine Insights: Arthritis & Musculoskeletal Disorders showed that when nails are put under Raman spectroscopy, a form of laser-based analysis, researchers can accurately predict someone’s risk for developing the disease several years in advance.

The researchers’ findings were based on the health records and nail clippings of 161 postmenopausal women. By looking at who developed the disease and who didn’t, researchers were able to learn what set some nails apart from others.

An over-the-counter test called Osentia has been available in England since 2016 but has yet to be introduced in the Canadian and American markets. Mark Tower, one of the lead authors of the study, says he hopes that changes soon. “For most of us, this critical information is only discovered after a fracture,” he told Ryerson University. “I see a future where we can help prevent that fracture from occurring in the first place.”