Nutrition may trump exercise for long-term bone health, finds mice study

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18 Oct 2018 --- While comparing mineral supplementation and exercise in mice, Universtiy of Michigan researchers found that nutrition may have a bigger impact on bone mass and strength. The study also identified that long-term mineral supplementation increased the ability to maintain the strength once exercise training had stopped. The findings could be significant in maximizing bone mass and strength in young adulthood to protect against the potential declines that come with aging.

“The longer-term mineral-supplemented diet leads to not only increases in bone mass and strength but the ability to maintain those increases even after detraining,” says David Kohn, a University of Michigan Professor in the schools of dentistry and engineering. 

“This was done in mice, but if you think about the progression to humans, diet is easier for someone to carry on as they get older and stop exercising, rather than the continuation of exercise itself,” he adds.

Kohn stated that the findings “surprised” the researchers: “We expected diet to enhance effects of exercise (which it did), but were surprised by the effects of diet alone and greater effect of diet in this model,” he tells NutritionInsight

The study increased calcium and phosphorous and found benefits to increasing both.

The researchers note that the findings should not cause people to “run out and buy calcium and phosphorus supplements” as the mice study may not directly translate to humans. It does, however, give researchers a conceptual place to begin.

“The specific effects are likely different between mice and humans, but the big picture issues of trying to maximize bone mass and strength in young adulthood to buffer the inevitable decline with age, using a supplemented diet, combining diet with other interventions, such as exercise; and analyzing effects of diet (and other interventions) on outcomes beyond just bone mass (e.g. strength) are important for humans,” Kohn tells NutritionInsight.

The role of diet in bone strength has been widely studied. A University of East Anglia study noted that sticking to a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, unrefined cereals, olive oil and fish – a Mediterranean style diet – could reduce hip-bone loss within just 12 months. While researchers from the University of Missouri identified that soy protein may counter the adverse effects of menopause on bone and metabolic health – such as osteoporosis.

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