Your bone health: the role of diet

Posted by on Mar 11, 2011 in bone health | 1 comment

Osteoporosis. That scary condition that can result in bone fracture in up to 40% of US women after the age of 50. In the UK, it’s been estimated at least half of women over age fifty will have some sort of osteoporotic fracture. So it’s truly no laughing matter.

I’ve tried to cover osteoporosis extensively since starting Flashfree and you can find many of those posts here. However, I am especially intrigued by novel research that demonstrates that dietary pattern, that is, particular combinations of foods that we eat, may influence bone turnover, a term used to describe the balance between bone formation and bone loss (a process that goes on constantly through our lives) resulting in a net loss or gain in bone tissue. Moreover, dietary pattern may also specifically influence bone resorption, i.e., the process by which cells called osteoclasts break down bone so that minerals (like calcium) can be released into the bloodstream.

The researchers, who studied 3,236 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 59, say that to date, most research has focused on link between specific nutrients and bone health, nutrients such as vitamin D or calcium. However, they point out that most individuals eat a variety of foods the contain combinations of nutrients. Therefore, they believed that there might be value in actually examining how the whole diet and the presence or absence of certain nutrients, affects the skeleton.

Consequently, they took initial body mass index measures, bone mineral density measures, assessed dietary habits by consumption of 98 foods, how often they were consumed and by portion size, and then, based on evaluation of how often these foods were consumed by the participants, further characterized them as the following dietary patterns: “healthy,” “processed,” “bread/butter,” “fish and chips” (the study took place in Scotland!) and “snack food.”

Overall, the women in the study actually consumed a large proportion of fruits and vegetables and on average, at least three cups of tea daily. Bread and potatoes tended to comprise the greatest source (at least percentage-wise) of “energy” to the diet. To a lesser extent, yogurt, cream, fats, oils, biscuits and milk also contributed a substantial amount of energy to the diet. However:

  • Of the five types of dietary patterns, a healthy diet was most associated with better bone health, and specifically, a reduction in bone resorption. Specific foods included fruits and vegetables, white meat, white and oily fish and dairy, all nutrients that have been previously associated with beneficial bone health.This combination of foods also provided adequate protein.
  • Conversely, eating mainly a ‘processed foods’ (i.e. cereal, processed meats, cake, desserts, dried fruits, soup, bread, and fats and oils) diet, and a “snack foods” diet (i.e. candy/cookies, potato chips, sauces) were both associated with reductions in bone mineral density.
  • The results didn’t change when factors, such as whether or not women were taking drugs to fight osteoporosis, were taken into account.

The bottom line is that when it comes to bone health, it’s important to eat healthy, pack your diet with fruits and vegetables, and stay away from junk and processed foods. Focus on foods that are risk in calcium and balanced levels of good protein. Although this may seem intuitive, the findings emphasize that  a poor diet may ultimately result in poor bone health and increase fracture risk as you age.

Time to restock the fridge? No bones about it!

One Comment

  1. 3-11-2011


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