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Fruits and Veggies May Strengthen Bones

FRIDAY Dec. 12, 2008 -- Eating lots of protein and cereal grains causes excess acid production in the body, experts say, which could increase calcium excretion and result in weakened bones.

However, a new study finds that boosting alkali levels with a pill or by consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables can strengthen bones.

The study included 171 men and women aged 50 and older who were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or doses of either potassium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, or potassium chloride for three months. The people who took bicarbonate showed significant reductions in calcium excretion and bone resorption.

Bone resorption is a process in which bones are broken down to release minerals such as calcium, phosphates, and alkaline (basic) salts into the blood. Increased bone resorption leads to reduced bone mass and increased fracture risk, the study authors said.

The normal diets of many older adults add acid to the body. As people age, they're less able to excrete the acid. Bone resorption is one way the body may try to counteract high acid levels.

However, "When fruits and vegetables are metabolized they add bicarbonate, an alkaline compound, to the body," Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes, of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, noted in an Endocrine Society news release.

"In this study, we demonstrated that adding alkali in pill form reduced bone resorption and reduced the losses of calcium in the urine over a three month period. This intervention warrants further investigation as a safe and well tolerated supplement to reduce bone loss and fracture risk in older men and women," lead author Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes, of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, said in an Endocrine Society news release.

The study is published in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"Heredity, diet, and other lifestyle factors contribute to the problem of bone loss and fractures. When it comes to dietary concerns regarding bone health, calcium and vitamin D have received the most attention, but there is increasing evidence that the acid/base balance of the diet is also important," Dawson-Hughes said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about bone health.

Posted: December 2008


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