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Fruits and vegetables are good for your... bones?



In light of the health risks presented by osteoporosis, researchers in Cambridge, England sought to determine whether fruits and veggies could help prevent bone loss (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83(6):1420-8). They recruited 5 groups of people to participate in their study: adolescent boys and girls, young women between 23 and 37, and older men and women between 60 and 83.

The subjects were asked to complete a detailed 7-day food diary, which included questions about the type of milk they drank, what types of fat were used for cooking or spreading, and what type of water they drank. For the purposes of the study, vegetable intake was defined as including green vegetables, root vegetables, salad vegetables (including tomatoes), other vegetables, and mixed-vegetable dishes such as stir-fry dishes. Fruit intake was defined as fresh, cooked, or canned fruit, dried fruit, nuts, and fruit juices.

All subjects then had their bone mineral content and bone mineral density tested, then those results were correlated with their levels of fruit and vegetable intake.

While researchers saw no relationship between bone mineral density/bone mineral content and the fruit and vegetable intake of the young women and the older men, they saw a significant positive relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and bone density/content for adolescent boys and girls and older women. Indeed, for older women, they found that doubling fruit intake resulted in a 5.6% improvement in the bone mineral density of the spine. This did not apply to older men, however.

Why the difference? Adolescence is an important period of bone growth, while adults have more stable bones. Older women are often losing bone due to menopause.

What this means for you:

There are lots of good reasons to eat your fruits and vegetables, and the fact that they’re good for your bones is just one more. You might want to make sure your kids get lots of fruits and vegetables, not only as a good dietary habit, but also for the sake of their bones.

First posted: June 9, 2006