Food and Bone Health

Can food help optimize bone health? It is said that one in three women and one in ten men over age 55 years will experience a fracture due to bone fragility as a result of osteoporosis. (Goldberg 2007) Diet is said to be a factor that can lead to or prevent osteoporosis. Many people have been taking calcium – unfortunately, many in non-bioavailable forms such as those in anti-acid pills (much of that comes in the form that is basically chalk, and calcium requires an acidic environment to break down into a bioavailable form) and in cheap calcium carbonate tablets. We sometimes see fully intact tablets in the intestines of patients on the x-rays.

Studies in recent years have found a positive relationship between the consumption of adult men and women and bone mineral density. A study called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension found that during the 3-months study, both men and women who consumed a diet that was high in fruits and vegetables had lower bone turnover markers. The Framington Osteoporosis Study found that men and women who had diets high in fruits and vegetables had higher bone mineral density compared to those who ate less fruits and vegetable and had more sweets. The same has been found in studies on younger people.

Foods that contribute to acid load in the body are those high in sulfur amino acids, phosphorus, or chloride, such as, meats, grains, nuts, and dairy products. Foods that contribute to alkali load are those high in potassium and magnesium salts of organic acids, for example, fruits and vegetables. A low acid load is not necessarily healthy as some foods – dairy products – that increase the acid load do contribute calcium. Some foods that contribute to alkali loads are not beneficial – potatoes (french fries, potato chips, etc.), chocolate, and beer. (Goldberg 2007)

Vitamins are very important for bone health. Many vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins C, K, and beta-carotine. Vitamin C is important in collagen formation and is a regulator in the differentiation of osteoblasts. Both vitamin C and beta-carotine are anti-oxidants as well. K is a cofactor in the gamma-carboxylation of glutamic acid and is an essential element in production of the full carboxylation of the protein, osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is important in bone mineralization. (Goldberg 2007)

Studies have found that calcium supplementation had little effect on bone health. Most of the studies probably used calcium carbonate rather than a more bioavailable form. They do note that diary products are a rich source of calcium, but they increase the urinary excretion of calcium. Sheehan states that the better absorbed source might be from plant sources, such as, brocolli leafy green vegetables, and oatmeal. Although diet is important for bone health, exercise is probably the most important factor in bone health. (Sheehan 2007)

Is is true that cola drink consumption has a negative effect on bone health? Apparently, so. Cola drinks, unlike other carbonated soft drinks, has been found to significantly lower bone mineral density. It is thought to be due to phosphoric acid that is added to cola drinks.


Goldberg G. Fruits and Vegetables: A Key to Osteoporosis Prevention? Nutrition & the M.D. January 2007; 33(1):1-3.

Sheehan M. Calcium Benefits Questioned in Adolescent Bone Health. Nutrition & the M.D. January 2007; 33(1):3-5.