A recent study which was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism has suggested that increasing the alkalinity of one’s diet via eating more fruits and vegetables could improve bone health by reducing the excretion of calcium from the body.
About Bone Health
When it comes to improving bone health, the nutrient which first springs to most minds is calcium. And many people would have the erroneous impression that milk is the best source of calcium for the body, and thus is very necessary for strong bones. Those who are a little more aware of the workings of nutrition would also be aware of the important role which vitamin D plays in the body`s ability to absorb calcium.
But there is one more very important variable which is not always discussed or harped upon – the acid-alkali balance in the body. In the said study, conducted by researchers from Tufts University and Northeastern University, both in Boston, it has been revealed that a diet containing a lot of protein and cereal grain causes excess acid in the body, and this may in turn increase calcium excretion.
“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,” said Bess Dawson-Hughes, the leader of the study.
About Bone Loss
As a person ages, his or her body becomes less able to eliminate the acid produced during metabolic processes. As the levels of acid in the body rise, the body has to find a way to neutralize this imbalance. Something has to give, and the body then carries out a process called bone resorption, whereby bones are broken done and minerals like calcium, phosphates and alkaline salts are released into the blood. As would be expected, such a process weakens the bones and raises the likelihood of fractures occurring.
With populations in developed areas rapidly aging, increasingly sedentary lifestyles further causing bone loss, and obesity epidemics raising the amount of stress placed on already fragile bones, diseases and degenerative conditions of the joints and bones are ballooning in their numbers.
How Fruits and Vegetables May Help – Details and Findings of Study
The said Boston study involved 171 men and women aged 50 and above who were randomly assigned potassium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate or potassium chloride supplements, or a placebo, for a period of 3 months. It was found that those subjects who consumed the bicarbonate supplements experienced significant reductions in calcium excretion, which suggests a reduction in bone resorption.
“When fruits and vegetables are metabolized they add bicarbonate, an alkaline compound, to the body. Our study found 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,” said Dr Dawson-Hughes.
Personal Changes to Improve Bone Health
So, what can an individual do to reduce his or her risk of bone loss? Two suggestions which the research team put forth were the use of supplements and food fortification. “Achieving alkali-producing diets would require drastic changes in food choices and be challenging in older people who tend to have long-established dietary patterns. Should it be shown to be beneficial, an alternative approach may be to administer bicarbonate in supplement form or to lower the acid-producing capacity of selected foods through alkali fortification,” they wrote.
Fruits and vegetables, generally speaking, are alkalizing. On the other hand, animal flesh and food products, soda beverages as well as most junk and processed foods are highly acidifying. Based on the acid-alkali theory of bone health, if one can turn toward a fully or largely vegetarian diet containing mainly fresh and raw organic produce, then one would already be on an alkalizing and healing diet.
But if that is too drastic, then the least one could do is to increase intake of the said alkalizing foods, while drastically cutting down on the other group. These steps would not only be beneficial for bone strength, but for many other aspects of health, too.