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Special Plant Pigments May Protect Bones in Elderly

A recent study from researchers at Tufts University, Hebrew SeniorLife and Boston University found that carotenoids may help prevent bone loss in older adults.

The results are published in the January 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Carotenoids are organic pigments found in plants. Their main purpose is to absorb light for photosynthesis. There are several different types and many have been associated with specific health benefits.

For instance, lutein has been associated with vision health. Astaxanthin has been associated with better digestion and lycopene has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol.

For the study, researchers reviewed data from 213 men and 390 women over the age of 75. All of them had taken part in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, during which they were followed for four years.

Using food frequency questionnaires filled out by participants, researchers measured the intake of several different carotenoids including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene and lutein.

After adjusting for outside influences like age, body mass, physical activity and smoking, researchers analyzed how the carotenoids affected participant's hips, spine and forearms.

Lycopene was shown to protect against the loss of bone mineral density (BMD) in the spine for women, and in the hips for men.

The reason for these results could be the antioxidant properties of carotenoids, which have been shown to protect against bone resorption. This is the process in which bones are broken down and dissolved into minerals like calcium, phosphates and salts.

Bone resorption is natural, but can be thrown out of balance as you age. Too much can lead to fractures and osteoporosis.

In addition to increasing your carotenoid intake there are several other steps you can take to protect your bones. Maintaining balanced acid-alkaline levels and consuming more calcium and vitamin D have all been shown to support healthy bones.
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