Osteoporosis is a silent and progressive disease affecting the density and quality of bone which, in turn, increases fracture risk. Figures from the International Osteoporosis Foundation reveal that around 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men are at risk of an osteoporotic fracture with wrist, hip and spine fractures being most common.

The underpinning causes of osteoporosis are indeed multi-faceted with hormone milieu, genetic and environmental factors all having a role to play. Modifiable lifestyle factors also have a valuable role to play in osteoporosis prevention where the whole diet can play its own part…

A new paper published in EFORT Open Reviews looked at evidence from 20 trials evaluating the role of wholefoods on bone health. Whilst it is well recognised that calcium and vitamin D are important bone nutrients less is known about the roles that other aspects of the diet can play. Some of the main findings were that:

  • Fruit and veg. continues to be under consumed yet also provides important micronutrients and phytochemicals that are useful for bone remodelling.
  • There is emerging evidence that dried fruits, such as prunes could help to support bone health, mainly by providing meaningful amounts of vitamin K, manganese, boron, copper and potassium.
  • It appears that just 50g prunes daily could help to reduce bone breakdown after 6 months when eaten by postmenopausal women with osteopenia.
  • Nutrients such as selenium, copper and iron may have roles in bone health too.
  • We should aim to eat a healthy, varied and balanced diet throughout the lifespan but especially during sensitive windows of bone turnover.

The paper was aimed at orthopaedic surgeons who would like to better understand the role of nutrition in osteoporosis prevention. When taken together a spectrum of nutrients are needed for bone health – not just calcium and vitamin D. Alongside this, phytonutrients and bioactives in foods also appear to have an increasingly important role to play. So, a wholefoods approach rather than singling out certain vitamins and minerals seems to be a more assured way of preventing osteoporosis.

For further information, see:
Higgs J, Derbyshire E & Styles K (2017) Nutrition and osteoporosis prevention for the orthopaedic surgeon: a wholefoods approach. EFORT Open Reviews 2; pg: 300-308.

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