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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.

Leaner Body, Stronger Bones
Osteoporosis is a big concern for postmenopausal women. Menopause is marked by a significant decrease in estrogen production, and remaining estrogen levels are direct indicators of bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. This is just one of the reasons that so many women were encouraged to start hormone replacement therapy at menopause - to help prevent osteoporosis. 

Need to improve your cholesterol profile? Make sure you get enough calcium
One recent study involving weight loss appears to show that high calcium intake, whether in pill or dairy food form, will help reduce blood pressure and improve one's cholesterol profile. So was it the weight loss that did it, or the calcium in the dairy? Scientists at Laval University in Canada designed a study to help make that distinction.


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Dieting and Osteoporosis

Tofu, a good source of protein

It should be common knowledge by now that constant dieting and yo-yo dieting are poor concepts to live by. Importantly, a study by the USDA's agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently (April, 1999) showed that women who ate simply to avoid weight gain had an increased risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition of bone mass loss that eventually results in fractures.

Exercise and eating a well-balanced diet that provides adequate calcium are the recommendations for good bone health. But when the researchers watched the eating behaviors of 192 women (aged 18-50 years), they found that those who had been classified as "restrained eaters" turned out to have a lower bone mineral content (12% less) and density (6% less) than those classified as "normal eaters." None of these women suffered from anorexia or bulimia, but were always overly concerned about their weight.

A few explanations for the results may be: (1) women were trying to maintain unreasonable weights that were set too low for their heights; (2) low consumption of dairy foods that are commonly thought to be high in fat and calories ( but high in calcium); (3) not providing enough calcium in the diet or in vitamin supplement form; (4) inadequate amount of weight-bearing exercise.

The findings of this study should be a red flag to all of us that our bones can be affected by our diets and behaviors. The scary part of this information is the projection that some 51% of the females in this population may suffer from this disease in the next 10-20 years.

What this means for you:

The prudent thing to do is to use low fat or fat-free dairy products whenever possible if you're trying to maintain your weight, and to use a supplement if your intake of calcium-rich foods (like yogurt, milk, cheese, tofu, greens, broccoli, and beans) is very low.

First posted: October 11, 2006