Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Fruits, vegetables, cereal and wines may protect bones
Elderly individuals who do not eat vegetables and fruits may be at risk of thinning bones and fractures, according to the results of a study reported in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition..

The findings provide additional information on how people may be able to protect themselves from osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease that affects many older people. While research has shown that calcium and vitamin D can help preserve bone, less is known about the effects of other nutrients, according to Dr. Katherine L. Tucker et al from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.

"Bone is a complex living tissue, and it is probable that a wide spectrum of micronutrients contributes to its maintenance," they write.Tucker and colleagues interviewed more than 900 men and women aged 69 to 93 about their diets, and measured their bone mineral density at a number of different skeletal sites.Diets were categorized into one of six groups according to the foods fromwhich individuals derived the bulk of their calories: meat, dairy, and bread; meat and sweet baked products; sweet baked products; alcohol; confectionary; and fruit, vegetables, and cereals.The researchers took into account other factors that may contribute to the risk of osteoporosis, including the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements, exercise habits, smoking, and body mass index (BMI).

Men who consumed primarily fruit, vegetables, and cereal had denser bones overall, compared with their peers who ate less healthy diets.Women in the confectionary group had the lowest average bone mineral density at the majority of skeletal sites. Bone mineral density in one of the areas measured at the hip, for instance, was nearly 12% lower among women in the sweet and chocolate eating group than among women in the fruit, vegetables and cereal group.

Although the benefits of eating fruits, vegetables, and cereals were less clear in women than in men overall, women in this group tended to have higher average bone density than their peers in other food groups. Women in the alcohol group, who consumed about two drinks a day, also tended to have high bone mineral density at most sites. The researchers attribute their finding to a potentially protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption in women.

The results, not surprisingly, suggest that a good-quality diet with high intakes of fruit, vegetables and breakfast cereal-and up to two drinks a day may contribute to better accumulated bone mineral density in old age. More studies are needed into the effects of alcohol, they note.Source: Tucker KL et al. Bone mineral density and dietary patterns in olderadults: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:245-52.

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