• ovariectomy;
  • Saururus chinensis;
  • bone turnover;
  • bone mass;
  • trabecular architecture

Recent studies suggest that phytoestrogens may exert a protective effect against osteoporosis. This study examined whether treatment with phytoestrogen extracts from Saururus chinensis (SC) exerted a preventive effect on estrogen-deficiency-induced osteoporosis. Six- to seven-month-old female Sprague–Dawley rats were randomly assigned into either a sham-operated group or one of three ovariectomy (OVX) subgroups: OVX treated with vehicle, OVX with alendronate, and OVX with SC extract (SC). Rats began receiving treatment 4 weeks before the OVX treatment and continued receiving treatment for an additional 10 weeks after OVX (for a combined total of 14 weeks). The results showed that the SC treatment prevented loss of femur bone mineral density after OVX, as determined by a significant decrease in the levels of serum bone turnover markers osteocalcin and alkaline phosphatase as well as urinary deoxypyridinoline. Micro-computed tomography analysis showed that the SC treatment significantly prevented decreases in bone volume/tissue volume, trabecular number and trabecular thickness, while also preventing an increase in trabecular separation. It was concluded that SC treatment could prevent OVX-induced loss of bone mass and deterioration in trabecular microarchitecture by suppressing bone turnover, thereby maintaining bone structural integrity. Further, no stimulation of proliferation of uterine tissue was noted. Therefore, it is suggested that treatment with S. chinensis extracts might be a potential alternative therapy for treating postmenopausal osteoporosis. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.