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Dieting and Osteoporosis

Tofu, a good source of protein



It should be common knowledge by now that constant dieting and yo-yo dieting are poor concepts to live by. Importantly, a study by the USDA's agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently (April, 1999) showed that women who ate simply to avoid weight gain had an increased risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition of bone mass loss that eventually results in fractures.

Exercise and eating a well-balanced diet that provides adequate calcium are the recommendations for good bone health. But when the researchers watched the eating behaviors of 192 women (aged 18-50 years), they found that those who had been classified as "restrained eaters" turned out to have a lower bone mineral content (12% less) and density (6% less) than those classified as "normal eaters." None of these women suffered from anorexia or bulimia, but were always overly concerned about their weight.

A few explanations for the results may be: (1) women were trying to maintain unreasonable weights that were set too low for their heights; (2) low consumption of dairy foods that are commonly thought to be high in fat and calories ( but high in calcium); (3) not providing enough calcium in the diet or in vitamin supplement form; (4) inadequate amount of weight-bearing exercise.

The findings of this study should be a red flag to all of us that our bones can be affected by our diets and behaviors. The scary part of this information is the projection that some 51% of the females in this population may suffer from this disease in the next 10-20 years.

What this means for you:

The prudent thing to do is to use low fat or fat-free dairy products whenever possible if you're trying to maintain your weight, and to use a supplement if your intake of calcium-rich foods (like yogurt, milk, cheese, tofu, greens, broccoli, and beans) is very low.

First posted: October 11, 2006