September 29, 2005

Fruits, veggies help build strong bones in boys

By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Here's another reason why kids
should eat their broccoli -- fruits and vegetables build strong
bones, a new study shows.

Boys who ate the most fruit and vegetables showed the
greatest accumulation of mineral in their bones throughout
childhood and adolescence, Dr. Hassanali Vatanparast of the
University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and colleagues found.
Higher bone mineral content translates to denser, stronger

Boys who exercised more and consumed more calcium also
developed stronger bones over the course of the study.

Vatanparast points out that while adolescence is the prime
time for building bone mass, kids frequently don't take in
enough calcium for optimum bone strength. Failing to form
strong bones in youth boosts the risk of problems later on,
such as the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.

He and his team followed 85 boys and 67 girls aged 8 to 20
years over a seven-year period. Study participants were
surveyed on their diet and their height and weight were
measured every six months, while their total bone mineral
content was tested every year with a technique known as
dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The findings are published in
the American Journal of Clinical Nutritional.

While most of the study participants consumed enough dairy
products, the researchers found, most did not eat recommended
amounts of fruits and vegetables.

The researchers found that boys who consumed 10 servings of
fruit and vegetables a day would wind up accumulating 48.6
grams more mineral content in their bones than boys who ate
just a single serving.

The nutritional quality of the North American diet has
worsened in the past three decades, Vatanparast noted,
especially among young people, while the popularity of
sugar-loaded beverages like sodas and fruit drinks means
they're also drinking less milk, which is the main source of
calcium in young people's diets.

While the study found no link between fruit and vegetable
consumption and bone density among girls, Dr. Vatanparast
points out that other research has found that girls who eat
more fruit and vegetables do in fact have denser bones. He said
his study might have missed the effect in females because
girls, especially teens, are known to underreport their food

In addition to containing calcium, Vatanparast noted, fruit
and vegetables are rich in minerals required to control levels
of acid in the body and thus prevent bone loss. Plant foods
also contain vitamin K, a nutrient necessary for the formation
of bone cells.

"We can say that there is a lifetime beneficial effect of
fruit and vegetables on bone mass," Vatanparast said. These
lifetime benefits can extend beyond the skeleton, he added;
good dietary habits in youth tend to be maintained as people
get older, and can help protect against obesity and chronic
illness linked to excess weight such as type II diabetes and
heart disease.

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutritional, September