A massive investigation into the role of diet on bone health suggests that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables could be the key to slowing down the onset of osteoporosis in women.
The research, commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency, involved more than 3,000 Scottish women. Researchers looked at women at different stages of the menopause - some of whom were taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - recorded their intake of particular nutrients and gave them scans to measure their bone density at hip and spine.
According to a statement from the FSA the results indicated a possible link between eating fruit and vegetables and stronger hip bones in women before and around the time of menopause.
Osteoporosis a major health problem that also has a significant burden on the health services of European countries, results in pain, loss of mobility and independence for many people. Bone health is particularly important for women around the menopause because changes in hormone levels, particularly oestrogen, accelerate bone loss.Around three million people suffer from osteoporosis in the UK. A third of women over 50 years of age will suffer a fracture because of it and one in 12 men.
In addition to the role of fruit and vegetables the study also suggests that there may be a link between the amount of vitamin D that women consume and bone density in post-menopausal women who are not on HRT. A major source of vitamin D is sunlight but diet is important, particularly so in colder climes.
The FSA suggests that the apparent protective effect of fruit and vegetables could be due directly to the nutrients or it is possible that the alkaline salts produced when they are digested are having an effect. These might help to counteract the acid salts that are produced by other foods such as meat and cheese. So, continues the FSA, the alkalinity generated by the fruit and vegetables could prevent the need for alkaline salts to be released from bone and so maintain the bones' strength.
The FSA is keen to carry out further research in order to gain more evidence that might suggest the impact of diet on osteoporosis.