In a recent article I discussed the benefits of exercise on bone health in people who either had or were at risk for osteoporosis. This information is important even for those of us who are healthy. Having strong, healthy bones now can help to prevent problems in the future.
Bone mineral content and bone density are two of the major measurements scientists and doctors use to determine bone health. Being too low or too high in either of these categories may make you more prone to injury at any age. In a recent study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers looked at which behaviors affect the bone density and content of young healthy individuals.
In the study, researchers compared what a group of young men did for activity and how they ate to a host of other factors, including bone mineral content and density. When it came to diet it should be no surprise that the men who consumed more than one gram of calcium every day had better overall bone health than those who ate less. The men who consumed higher amounts of calcium were also taller on average.
There were a few more associations the researchers examined. If the subjects who ate a lot of calcium were taller, they should also have more bone mineral by default, since they were subjected to greater forces on a daily basis. This hypothesis proved to be true. The greatest correlation for dietary calcium intake to bone health was when the researchers divided bone mineral content by body mass index (BMI). It seems that when we factor out size, there still seems to be a relationship between calcium intake and bone health.
When it came to physical activity, the relationship was even more dynamic. When comparing moderate and vigorous physical activity to bone health, the men who spent more than twenty percent of their daily energy exercising intensely didn’t show significant results – until the researchers factored out weight. Once they took body mass out of the picture, there was a strong association between bone health and physical activity. The researchers based their definition of ‘vigorous activity’ on energy expenditure over fifteen minutes, and not on the type of activity that was done. Bear in mind from a previous article that some activities, such as cycling, may reduce bone health if done vigorously over a long period of time.
Now that we have a study that shows such a strong association between bone health, exercise, and diet, it would be nice in the future to establish causation. Also, vitamin D may need to be accounted for as well. This study was done in Australia, a country with a lot of sunlight populated by northern Europeans. The results may not be the same in other locations or with other populations.
Hopefully another study will put these findings to the test. As far as we can tell from this review, a well-rounded diet and exercise win the day when it comes to bone health. Not much of a surprise ultimately, but good to hear anyway.
1. Selma C Liberato, et. al., “The role of physical activity and diet on bone mineral indices in young men: a cross-sectional study,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:43.
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