Tag Archives: bone health

New research links FOS and Bone Health

A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests a link between fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and bone health. It indicates that combining a calcium supplement with FOS is more effective than taking a calcium supplement alone (1).

The two-year study followed 300 post-menopausal women and measured markers of bone health. The women were randomly divided into three groups. One group of women were given a daily calcium supplement, while a second group were given a combination of calcium and FOS . The third group were given a placebo supplement. At the end of the study, measures of bone turnover and bone density were taken.

At the end of the study, there were no significant differences in bone density between any of the three groups. However, the results showed that the combination of FOS and calcium had the greatest effect on bone turnover.

Bone is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. The rate at which this happens is known as ‘bone turnover’ and is a known indicator of bone quality. The change in bone turnover markers in the women taking both FOS and calcium indicates ‘a more favourable bone health profile’ according to the researchers in this study.

FOS seems to enhance calcium absorption in the large intestine, and the researchers suggest that this is the reason for its effect on bone health. These findings certainly support the need for more research in this area, particularly for vulnerable groups such as postmenopausal women.

More about FOS

FOS or prebiotics are found in chicory root, jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, leeks, onion, beans, peas and lentils.
FOS or prebiotics are found in chicory root, jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, leeks, onion, beans, peas and lentils.

FOS is a prebiotic nutrient found in plant foods. Prebiotics are not digested, and simply pass through the body. In doing so, they act as ‘food’ for healthy bacteria in the bowel, boosting numbers of health-promoting acidophilus and bifidobacteria, and crowding out disease-causing bacteria. As well as improving calcium absorption, FOS also supports both digestive and immune health.

High concentrations of FOS or prebiotics are found in chicory root, jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, leeks, onion, beans, peas and lentils. FOS can also be taken in supplement form, and its sweet taste means that it works well mixed into oatmeal, yoghurt or smoothies, or simply used as a low-calorie sweetener to enhance flavour.

In the UK, most of us average an intake of around 12g of fibre each day – only half of the recommended amount. More research is still needed in the area of FOS and bone health. In the meantime, increasing fibre intake, and prebiotic foods in particular, seems a sensible measure to ensure the recommended intake for optimal health.

References

Slevin, M, Allsopp P, Magee M, Bonham V, Naughton J, Strain M, Duffy J, Wallace E, McSorley E. 2014. “Supplementation with Calcium and Short-Chain Fructo-Oligosaccharides Affects Markers of Bone Turnover But Not Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women”. Journal of Nutrition Jan 2014

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Potassium boosts bone health

A randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial has suggested that potassium citrate may have significant benefits for bone health (1).

The research involved 201 healthy elderly men and women who received supplements each day for 24 months. All of the adults received a calcium and vitamin D supplement each day. In addition, the adults were given either a daily potassium citrate supplement or a placebo pill.

After 24 months, bone mineral density was measured by x-ray. A special tool was also used to calculate the risk of fracture for each participant.

Potassium Citrate is strongly linked with bone health
Potassium Citrate is strongly linked with bone health

The researchers suggested that the benefits of the potassium citrate are a result of its alkalinity which helps to prevent calcium loss from bones. The food that we eat determines the pH balance in our bodies. If our diet is acid-forming, then the alkaline mineral calcium is leeched from our bones to restore pH balance. This calcium loss decreases bone mineral density, making bones very vulnerable. Potassium citrate gives the body the resource it needs to keep pH levels balanced without placing stress of the bones. It ensures that the bones are provided with sufficient back-up alkaline which can be stored by the bone ready to be used when alkaline compounds in the blood run short.

The modern diet is believed to have an increasingly acidic load owing to poor food choices. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables are often overlooked in favour of acid-forming processed red meats, cheddar cheese, sodium, white flour and sugar. Over time, eating an imbalanced diet of excess animal protein, refined grains, sugar, alcohol and salt can cause your body to slip into a state of mild acidosis.

By making small adjustments to your diet, your body can use its mineral stores for building bone, rather than for fighting acidosis. You can shift to a more alkaline diet by making a few simple dietary changes:

  • Eat more than 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day
  • Reduce intake of processed animal products
  • Replace grains such as wheat and white rice with more alkaline quinoa, millet and buckwheat
  • Drink water with a little freshly squeezed lemon or lime
  • Use potatoes, squash and other root vegetables as your energy-giving carbohydrate sources
  • Eat plenty of spices such as ginger, cinnamon and mustard
  • Try alkaline-forming supplements such as a good quality multivitamin and mineral formula, or a greens powder each day

Reference

1.Jehle S, Hulter HN, Krapf R (2012) Effect of Potassium Citrate on Bone Density, Microarchitecture, and Fracture Risk in Healthy Older Adults without Osteoporosis: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Nov 15 (Epub ahead of print)

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The importance of bone health

Bone health is an issue which is becoming increasingly more prominent in today’s society. According to the National Osteoporosis Society (1), one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 in the UK will suffer with a bone fracture. This is mainly due to poor bone health which means that we all need to know how important it is to build and maintain strong bones.

In addition to weight baring exercise, nutrition is absolutely vital for establishing strong bones in childhood and adolescence as this is when the body passes through the bone growth stages to create individual peak bone mass. Within the 4 years surrounding an adolescent’s peak height, around 39% of their total body bone mineral is gained. This highlights how crucial this time is for building strong bones for the future as we go in to adulthood, as low bone mineral growth during youth is linked to the risk of developing brittle bones and osteoporosis in older age.

Fresh Orange Juice
Many Fresh Orange Juice's can be bought fortified with Calcium, Magnesium or Vitamin D.

Nutrients such as calcium, vitamins D and K and magnesium have all been specifically identified for bone health and having an influence on bone mineral density. A recent review (2) published in the journal Clinical Biochemistry focuses in particular on calcium’s effect on bone health. They reviewed numerous research papers looking into the effects of certain calcium rich foods on bone density.

For example, one study reported that women who had a lower intake of milk in childhood and adolescence had low bone density in adulthood and as a result they had a much greater risk of fractures later in life. Additionally, the authors reported on findings that with low intake of cow’s milk, even pre-pubertal children can have a higher risk of fractures which shows how important calcium intake is in early life.

As well as dietary calcium intake, calcium supplementation has also been found to be a fantastic contributor to bone mineral accretion. So be sure you add calcium to your family’s supplement regime to ensure all your bones are as strong as they can be to help prevent breakages.

Once peak bone mass is achieved around the age of 20 it needs to be maintained in the bone maintenance stage which lasts around 10-20 years. Then as we reach middle age our bone density starts to reduce by approximately 0.5–1.0% per year. However, it is important to note that female bone losses can be considerably more around the time of the menopause, at around 2–3% per year due to decreases in oestrogen levels. This represents a crucial time for maintaining bone density through our food and nutrition choices. Not surprisingly, calcium intake has been linked to the prevention of bone loss around this time.

Within the review paper, the research indicates that baseline calcium intakes of 500–1000 mg/day (meeting the recommended intake of 700mg a day) which were increased by 500–1200 mg/day prevented bone loss.

In order to be within this calcium intake, try to include the following foods into your typical day’s food intake, which combined equates to around 1578mg of calcium:

Typical servings: plain low fat yoghurt, 225g (415 mg of calcium), cheddar cheese, 40g (307mg), milk (around 300mg), pink salmon, 85g (181mg), Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 170ml (375mg). Dietary calcium is also available from sources such as other dairy products, bony fish, legumes, certain nuts (such as almonds and Brazil nuts), fortified soya milk and some fortified breakfast cereals also contain smaller amounts of calcium.

However, the report noted that most people’s calcium intake from dietary sources is often not sufficient especially for those that do not drink milk e.g. Chinese cultures. They therefore recommended calcium supplementation to meet the requirement. Vitamin D is also a great contributor to healthy bones on its own however when combined with calcium it has a much greater effect and the review noted that supplemental vitamin D combined with supplemental calcium can help to slow bone loss. This study included 1200 mg/day calcium and 1000 IU/day vitamin D supplementation and found that the two nutrients used together had a greater effect on maintaining bone density than when used individually.

It was also noted that calcium and vitamin D supplementation, at an intake of around 1000–1200mg calcium (depending on dietary calcium intake) and 800 IU vitamin D daily, is particularly important for those with osteoporosis or those at risk of its development. However, make sure that you are not exceeding the recommended upper limit of calcium which is 3,000 mg/day for children and adolescents aged 9–18 years, 2,500 mg/day for 19–50 year olds and 2,000mg/day for those aged> 50 years.

What all of this means it that it is really important to get enough calcium and vitamin D in both food and supplement forms to help keep bones healthy and strong, and also that your kids are getting enough to help build their bones for the future.

Written by Lauren Foster

(1) National Osteoporosis Society

(2) Zhu, K. & Prince, R.L. (2012) Calcium and bone. Clinical Biochemistry, p7.

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Dried plums can help prevent osteoporosis

As a nutritional therapist, I am always interested in new dietary approaches to protect our health as we age.  I was particularly interested to read about a recent study which found dried plums to be of significant benefit in supporting bone health.

The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that eating dried plums increased bone formation in postmenopausal women.

Although bone is often thought of as inert, it is in fact a ‘living structure’, constantly being broken down and rebuilt.  This is a process known as ‘bone turnover’.  If bone is broken down more quickly than it is remade, then osteoporosis can result.  This condition is of particular concern to postmenopausal women who produce less of the bone-protecting hormone oestrogen.

Dried plums can help prevent osteoporosis
A recent study has found dried plums to be of significant benefit in supporting bone health (2)

The bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis, is in fact a major health concern in the UK.  In the over-50s, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 12 men are affected.

The study, conducted by Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi, tested the effects of daily consumption of 100g dried plums on the bone density of 55 postmenopausal women over a 12 month period.  A control group were given 100g dried apples.

Bone health in the women was measured at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months, by measuring markers of bone turnover in the blood.  X-rays were also used at these intervals to assess bone mineral density.

Over the 12-month period, dried plums resulted in increased bone density of both the ulna (a bone in the forearm) and the spine.  No such effect was seen in the group taking the dried apple.

Professor Arjamandi reasons that the special phenolic compounds in dried plums increase levels of a hormone linked to bone formation.  These compounds also help to prevent bone from being broken down. Dried plums, or prunes, are also high in antioxidants and provide essential nutrients for bone health such as potassium, boron and copper.

Introducing dried plums into the daily diet may therefore be a positive step in the prevention of osteoporosis.  “Don’t wait until you get a fracture or you are diagnosed with osteoporosis and have to have prescribed medicine,” Arjmandi suggests, “People could start eating two to three dried plums per day and increase gradually to perhaps six to ten per day.  Prunes can be eaten in all forms and can be included in a variety of recipes.”

Dried fruits certainly offer a variety of health benefits, as they are higher in fibre and phenols, and are more nutrient-dense, than fresh fruit.  For those interested in maintaining or improving their bone health, this initial research suggests that introducing prunes in particular to the diet could be a positive step.

Written by Nadia Mason

References

1.  Shirin Hooshmand, Sheau C. Chai, Raz L. Saadat, Mark E. Payton, Kenneth Brummel-Smith, Bahram H. Arjmandi.Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apple on bone in postmenopausal women. British Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 1 DOI: 10.1017/S000711451100119X

2.  Image courtesy of Just4you.

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Fish and fish oils may be important for bone health

The long chain omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines, play an important role in optimal health.  As previously mentioned in my blog posts they are important for our hearts, brain, eyes and may protect against various conditions.  There is also some evidence to suggest that these fatty acids are important for bone health and perhaps prevent against osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Pharma Nord Bio Fish Oil
A new study has found that fish consumption may protect against bone loss.

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1) has found that fish consumption may protect against bone loss.  The study aimed to look at the association between dietary intake of fatty acids and fish and bone mineral density in older adults (average age of 75 years).  The study tracked changes in bone mineral density over a four year period.

The results of the study showed that high intakes of fish, 3 or more servings of fish a week, were associated with maintenance (ie no changes) in bone mineral density in men and women.  The study was only an association study so it does not prove that eating fish can prevent bone loss in old age however, previous studies  have also found that eating a diet rich in fish or having good intakes of the fish oils EPA and DHA, may contribute to a reduced risk of osteoporosis.  It is thought that the fish oils may be working to protect bone through their anti-inflammatory actions.  Inflammation in the body is known to be involved in the process of bone loss.

More evidence and further research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn, however, oily fish has been shown in numerous studies to benefit health so including at least 2 servings a week in the diet is a good idea.   For individuals who don’t regularly eat fish a fish oil supplement rich in DHA and EPA may be worth considering but it is always best to check with a medical doctor prior to starting any new supplement regimen.

A healthy diet is important for strong, healthy bones.  Calcium, vitamin D are well known to be important for healthy bones but there are many other nutrients that are involved in bone strength such as magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, silicon, manganese, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B and phytonutrients – biochemical plant compounds found in fruits and vegetables.  A varied, healthy diet, especially on rich in fruits and vegetables and unprocessed unrefined pulses, beans, nuts/seeds and wholegrains, will provide a huge array of nutrients that may positively impact bone health.  Please read my other posts relating to bone health for more information on how good nutrition may be helpful to keep bones strong.

(1)  Emily K Farina EK et al.  2011.  Protective effects of fish intake and interactive effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intakes on hip bone mineral density in older adults: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study.  Am J Clin Nutr.  93:1142-1151.

Written by Ani Richardson

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