Figures show that one in three women (mostly post-menopausal) and one in 12 men in the UK will develop osteoporosis. The condition causes brittle bones and poses one of the greatest threats to health and well-being in middle-age and beyond.
Osteoporosis is often dubbed the ‘silent disease’ as sufferers rarely experience any symptoms – although it can cause a hunched back and back pain – and only realise they have the condition when they suffer a fracture.
As a result of the debilitating nature of the disease, researchers are constantly looking for ways to help combat it and according to the latest, promising findings they may well have succeeded in finding a simple way to help prevent its onset.
Tomatoes add extra strength
According to an article in the journal Osteoporosis International, as little as 30mg of the antioxidant lycopene – which is found in tomatoes – is enough to help prevent osteoporosis. Lycopene is the red pigment in tomatoes and has already been proven to have numerous health benefits in the fight against prostate problems, including prostate cancer.
According to researchers at the University of Toronto, lycopene is a potent carotenoid – a naturally occurring pigment essential for plant growth – which is able to lower oxidative stress.
In this latest study (the first study to demonstrate the effect of lycopene on bone health), post-menopausal women aged 50 to 60 were first restricted from consuming any lycopene-containing foods for a month. After the “washout period” the participants were split into four groups over four months. Each group of participants either consumed a 15mg lycopene supplement, a glass of tomato juice naturally containing 15mg of lycopene, a gourmet Japanese tomato juice with 35mg of lycopene or a placebo.
Blood tests were carried out after the washout period and after two and four months of supplementation, in order to determine carotenoid content, total antioxidant capacity (TAC), lipid and protein oxidation.
According to lead researcher Dr. Leticia Rao, director of the Calcium Research Laboratory, by the end of the initial lycopene-free month participants were more prone to the risk of osteoporosis.
However, after four months, results showed that lycopene-supplementation had significantly increased serum lycopene compared to the placebo group. The lycopene groups also had significantly increased antioxidant capacity, decreased oxidative stress parameters and decreased bone reabsorption markers.
The researchers concluded the reduction in markers that indicate the rate of bone breakdown (NTx) may be due to the ability of lycopene to reduce oxidative stress. They added: “Our findings are the first to show that lycopene intervention, given in capsule or juice form, supplying at least 30 mg/day, may decrease the risk of osteoporosis by decreasing oxidative stress and bone resorption.”
Previous studies have shown similar results. In early 2009, one study found 10 milligrams of lycopene per day helps maintain bone density compared to taking only 3 milligrams per day, while another study in the same month found 12 milligrams of lycopene per day to be superior to 4 milligrams per day for bone health.
In addition to lycopene, there are currently a number of ways to help maintain bone health, including calcium with vitamin D, olive oil, citrus fruit antioxidants and exercising.
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Osteoporosis International 2010; DOI 10.1007/s00198-010-1308-0a