mother was right: eating fruits and vegetables is good for you. But some new
research suggests her advice is good for a very long time, even into old
age. VOA's Rose Hoban reports.
appears that older men who eat fruits and vegetables can delay the onset of
brittle bone disease known as osteoporosis.
years, doctors focused on studying osteoporosis in women only. But men are
living longer than in the past, and as they age, their bones also can get
brittle and break easily. Tufts University researcher Katherine Tucker explains
there are parts of the body where bone loss is a particular problem.
want to prevent hip fractures," she says. "And the spine is another
area that is really at risk of spinal compression and loss ... that reduces
height over time."
doctors recommend people eat foods that include calcium to keep their bones
strong. But in an earlier study, Tucker found that people who ate lots of
fruits and vegetables had stronger bones over time than people who didn't eat
fruits and vegetables regularly.
fruits and vegetables provide molecules which help reduce acidity in the blood,
which helps reduce bone resorption," Tucker says. Resorption means the
breaking down of bone cells to release calcium into the blood.
this follow-up study, Tucker and her colleagues recruited men whose average age
was about 75 years old. Over a period of four years, the researchers used a
bone scanner to make regular measurements of the men's hips, spines and
forearms. Tucker also had the men keep detailed information about what they
ate. In particular, she asked about vitamin C, because vitamin C seems to slow
down bone resorption.
were able to see that vitamin C was quite protective against bone loss over
four years," Tucker says. "It was most significant in men who also
had either low calcium or low vitamin E intake."
says low amounts of calcium in the blood is an obvious risk factor for
osteoporosis. But she says it also seems vitamin C is protective for people at
risk. Tucker says when people have low
levels of vitamin E in their bodies, it seems like higher levels of vitamin C
also make up that lack.
C is found commonly in many fruits and vegetables. But Tucker says the men with
the strongest bones also had taken vitamin C supplements.
found that the total vitamin C was what really mattered," she says.
"But in this case, in order to see the protection from vitamin C, it was
at a level that was mainly achieved from supplements."
is continuing research on which nutrients can keep bones strong, long after
mother has stopped telling you to eat your vegetables.
study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.