Calcium not the only key to bone health in older women

December 29, 1999

Our understanding of the influence of nutrition on bone health has focused on studies of the role of calcium, but new research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points to other minerals and vitamins that may be important in the prevention of osteoporosis. In a study of a group of middle-aged women, Dr. New and colleagues at the University of Surrey, UK identified several key micronutrients commonly found in fruits and vegetables which make a significant contribution to bone health. Women who had high current and previous consumption of zinc, magnesium, potassium, fiber and vitamin C had greater bone mineral density once they had reached middle age.

The 62 healthy Scottish women volunteers were aged 45-55 years and had previously taken part in an osteoporosis screening study. The state of their bone health was assessed by measurements of the bone mineral density of the femoral neck and lumbar spine, as well as urinary and blood markers of bone formation and dissolution. Each woman also completed a detailed dietary profile focusing on foods consumed most frequently in the past twelve months, as well as during childhood and early adulthood. Those who reported the highest consumption of foods containing zinc, magnesium, potassium, fiber and vitamin C were the most likely to have higher bone mineral density, as well as less evidence of bone loss (as measured in the blood and urine). Also, moderate alcohol intake appeared to have a positive effect on bone health.

These findings point to a an important role for fruits and vegetables in the diet in the prevention of osteoporosis, since these foods are primary sources of the micronutrients that assist in maintaining healthy bones. The best overall sources of zinc, magnesium and potassium in the average diet include baked potato with skin, green peas, bananas, enriched cereal, and beef.
New SA et al. Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health? Am J Clin Nutr 1999;71.

For more information contact: Dr. Susan A. New at

This media release is provided by The American Society for Clinical Nutrition, to provide current information on nutrition-related research. This information should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, consult your doctor.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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