Osteoporosis is a highly prevalent disease in aging populations. Defined as a progressive loss of bone mass, osteoporosis puts both male and female counterparts at risk for fracture, thus a decrease in both qualities of life and autonomy. There are two important structures that make up bone mass: compact bone and spongy bone. Compact bone makes up 80% of bone mass, and is the thick, dense part of the bone structure; this is the type of bone you see when looking at a skeleton. Spongy bone is porous and makes up the inner structure of the rest of the bone, connecting in a web-like fashion and becoming thicker in areas of mechanical stress. As individuals age, compact bone can actually thicken, but spongy bone decreases; think of this like a hollow, chocolate bunny. If enough pressure is put on the densest part of a hollow chocolate bunny, it will still crack and crumble.
Women are more immediately at risk for bone loss due to the drastic decrease of estrogen that occurs during menopause. The biggest losses occur within the first 10 years of menopause, with women losing up to 50% of their spongy bone and 30% of their compact bone over their lifetime. While it takes men much longer to lose their bone mass, they too experience both changes in bone mineral density, and thus increases in fractures, though these losses are significantly less studied. However, it is known that when men do experience fracture, it significantly increases their mortality rate, especially compared to women. Try as they might, pharmaceutical companies have yet to create a pill that can reverse osteoporosis. But don’t fret- there are ways to both prevent and even reverse bone loss.
The platitude that diet and exercise is the cure all holds true in the case of osteoporosis, but up to a certain extent. Mechanical loading, or any weight-bearing exercise, puts stress on the bone that triggers a bone-building response. Walking, running, weight training, are all great ways to build up bone mass before hitting about 40 years old, when bone loss starts to really become apparent. For an individual at risk for osteoporosis, which is essentially anyone over 40, aquatic exercise alone is not ideal because it takes away the mechanical loading necessary for triggering that building response.
Diet is another important means of increasing bone mass before age 40, preventing further losses, and in the case of one specific dried fruit, reversing bone loss. Adequate protein, calcium, and vitamin D are all important for maintaining bone mass. However, one functional food stands out from the rest: Prunes. You read correctly. Prunes reverse osteoporosis.
In the coming blog posts, I’ll be discussing the best exercises and foods for preventing and reversing bone loss. Until then, go ahead and add some prunes to your diet; our lab has found that prune consumption restores bone mineral density when regularly consumed.
Elizabeth Foley is an FSU Ph.D. Candidate in Nutrition and Food Science. Posts and blogs created by Elizabeth on the Wealth Meet Health community are for informational purposes only and are not meant to take the place of your relationship with a health professional. For personal health considerations, please consult a health professional directly.
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