Fruits, vegetables, cereal may protect bones

July 9, 2002 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Fruits, vegetables, cereal may protect bones

Elderly individuals who eat sweets at the expense of vegetables and fruits may be at risk for thinning bones and fractures, according to the results of a new study.

To investigate, researchers from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts interviewed more than 900 men and women aged 69 to 93 about their diets, and measured their bone mineral density at a number of different skeletal sites.

Diets were categorized into one of six groups according to the foods from which individuals derived the bulk of their calories: 1) meat, dairy, and bread; 2) meat and sweet baked products; 3) sweet baked products; 4) alcohol; 5) candy; and 6) fruit, vegetables, and cereal.

Men who consumed primarily fruit, vegetables, and cereal had denser bones overall, compared with their peers who ate less healthy diets. Women in the candy group had the lowest average bone mineral density at the majority of skeletal sites. Bone mineral density in the hip was nearly 12% lower among women in the candy group than among women in the fruit, vegetables and cereal group. Although the benefits of eating fruits, vegetables, and cereals were less clear in women than in men overall, women in this group tended to have higher average bone density than their peers in other food groups.

Women in the alcohol group, who consumed about two drinks a day, also tended to have high bone mineral density at most sites. The researchers attribute their finding to a potentially protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption in women.

These results suggest that a good-quality diet with high intakes of fruit, vegetables and breakfast cereal--and limited in less nutrient-dense foods--may contribute to higher bone mineral density in old age. More studies are needed into the effects of alcohol, said the scientists.

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