A Solid Foundation
Thinning bones & stooped shoulders & hip fractures: its a dreadful scenario for old age and one that has turned multitudes of people into regular consumers of calcium supplements and dairy products. But many people are overlooking another critical component of long-term bone health. Several new studies -- a large one of teenage girls in Northern Ireland and an even larger study of adult American men and women -- demonstrated that a diet full of fruits and vegetables is crucial for bone mineral density.
THE SCIENCE OF BONES
The author of the American study is Katherine L. Tucker, PhD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University. According to Dr. Tucker, many people dont realize that bone is complex living tissue that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt (called remodeling). After a rapid rate of bone remodeling in the growing-up years, bones stabilize until about age 40 at which time they begin to break down faster than they rebuild, a process that menopause accelerates in women. Fruits and vegetables support the continuation of bone rebuilding throughout life because among other things they supply phytochemicals, minerals (in particular potassium and magnesium) and vitamin K from green leafy vegetables, which bone needs to activate its protein. But there is yet another reason that fruits and vegetables are critical for bone health. According to contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, eating habits, coupled with poor food and beverage choices such as high-phosphate carbonated beverages (soda), can create compounds called metabolic acids that may accelerate bone loss. (Phosphates in excess can appear as phosphoric acid that in turn leaches minerals from bone and other tissues.) Fruits and vegetables in sufficient quantities can neutralize this acid and keep bones from harm. This is of special concern because of the popularity of high-protein diets that do not allow for sufficient fruits and vegetables. Overall, Dr. Tucker says the most important thing you can do to keep your bones strong is provide a total healthy long-term environment by eating five or more fruits and vegetables a day, getting enough calcium and exercising regularly.