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Effects of Food on Bone Health
Probed By Marcia
March 25, 2003
New clues about how foods affect the health of the human body's
bones are emerging from ongoing Agricultural
Research Service studies in northern California. A unique investigation
that scientists recently finished analyzing compared the bone health of vegan
women--who don't eat meat, poultry or dairy products--with that of omnivore
women, who do.
Research physiologist Marta D. Van Loan at the ARS
Western Human Nutrition Research
Center, Davis, Calif., and her university colleagues recruited 48 healthy,
nonsmoking women, aged 18 to 40, as volunteers for the 10-month study. Of this,
22 were vegans, and 26 were omnivores.
This study and other bone-health investigations at the center
are designed to reveal nutrition-based ways to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
This disease causes dense, healthy bones to become weak, thin, porous and more
likely to fracture. An estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis.
Another 28 million are at risk.
In contrast to what previous research with omnivore volunteers
had suggested, Van Loan and colleagues found that the rate at which calcium was
removed from bones was the same for omnivore women as for the vegan women. The
finding runs counter to a well-known theory that individuals who eat
animal-derived foods will likely lose more calcium from their bones.
The second unexpected finding indicated that the vegan
volunteers formed new bone at a significantly faster rate than the omnivore
volunteers. That happened even though the omnivore volunteers were taking in
more calcium than the vegans. Both the omnivores and the vegans took in about
the same amount of other bone-building nutrients, such as magnesium.
are in ARS' Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.