Carotenoids May Boost Bone Health


According to a new study antioxidant pigments (carotenoids) from plants may protect against bone loss in older men and women.

Living things obtain their colours, with few exceptions, from natural pigments. Among the most common and most important natural pigments are the carotenoids.

In human beings, carotenoids can serve several important functions. The most widely studied and well-understood nutritional role for carotenoids is their pro-vitamin A activity.

Now US researchers at Tufts and Boston Universities have concluded that an increased intake of carotenoids, and particularly lycopene, was associated with some level of protection against losses in bone mineral density (BMD) at the lumbar spine in women and at the hip in men.

Details of the study

Lead researcher Katherine Tucker and her colleagues studied data from 213 men and 390 women over the age of 75 participating in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. The participants were followed for four years.

During the study, intakes of total and individual carotenoids were measured. The carotenoids measured included alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and lutein plus zeaxanthin. Intakes were assessed using a 126-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). They then correlated this with the participants’ BMD at the hip, spine, and radial shaft.

At the end of study, the researchers noted a strong link between intakes of lycopene and the change over four years in the BMD of the lumbar spine in women. Moreover, lycopene was linked to changes in the BMD in the hips of men. They also noted that BMD in the hips of men was also associated with intakes of total carotenoids, beta-carotene, and lutein plus zeaxanthin.

The researchers wrote: ‘These results suggest a possible protective effect of carotenoids, particularly of lycopene, against bone loss in older adults. It is therefore possible that carotenoids explain part of the previously observed protective effects of fruit and vegetable intake on BMD.’

The researchers proposed that the carotenoids may play a protective role in skeletal health because of their antioxidant activity. They added that previous reports have suggested that oxidative stress may increase bone resorption. (Resorption is the process by which osteoclasts break down bone and release the minerals, resulting in a transfer of calcium from bone fluid to the blood.)

Bone health has always been a large focus in the healthcare and medical industry, as ageing populations and the additional strain from obesity inflates the numbers affected by osteoporosis. Already the lifetime risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is 30-40 per cent and in men the risk is about 13 per cent.

For further reading on osteoporosis, follow the article links below:

Osteoporosis: How To Strengthen Your Bones And Prevent Fractures

Osteoporosis: Is your diet giving your bones what they need?

Bone health: The Ancient Chinese Remedy That Helps Build Bone Density And Speed Up The Healing Time Of Fractures

‘Carotenoids may boost bone health: Study’ by Stephen Daniells, published online 15/01/09,

‘Carotenoids’ published online,

‘Government Response to the report from the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (Stewart Group)’ published online,

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