NUTRITION
January 16, 2009

Eating Meat Promotes Bone Loss

The acidity of a diet high in grains and meats may actually increase the excretion of calcium, weakening bones. Adding more fruits and vegetables...
If there weren't already enough reasons to eat a diet rich in fruits and veggies, new research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that such a diet may also aid in preventing bone loss. In contrast, diets high in grains and proteins produce acids that the body may not be able to handle properly, particularly as we age — these acids may actually increase the excretion of calcium from the body and thus work to weaken bones.

Since bone resorption can lead to a loss of bone density resulting in more bone fractures, adding some more fruits and veggies to the diet is certainly an easy way to help combat this problem...

Lead researcher Bess Dawson-Hughes says that "[w]hen 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."

As we age, our bodies become less able to excrete the acids produced when protein and grains are metabolized. One way that the body handles this excess acid is to break down — or resorb — bones; this process releases calcium and alkaline compounds into the system. Dawson-Hughes and her team wondered if it were possible to diminish this resorption response by adding exogenous alkaline compounds to the diet, such as the ones fruits and vegetables produce when metabolized.

To test this idea, 171 adults ages 50 and older were randomly divided into groups, which received supplements containing potassium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, or potassium chloride for a period of three months (there was also one placebo group). At the end of the experiment, each participant's urine was tested for calcium levels. Those who had taken bicarbonate pills had significantly less calcium in their urine, which the authors say indicates a reduction in bone resorption over this period.

Dawson-Hughes concludes that the results indicate that "bicarbonate had a favorable effect on bone resorption and calcium excretion. This suggests that increasing the alkali content of the diet may attenuate bone loss in healthy older adults."

Since bone resorption can lead to a loss of bone density resulting in more bone fractures, adding some more fruits and veggies to the diet is certainly an easy way to help combat this problem which affects so many of us as we age.
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