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This Pigment Can Keep Aging Bones Strong

Higher intakes of carotenoids, especially lycopene, may lower the risk of hip fractures in older adults according to data published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Carotenoids are organic pigments that give plants, fruits and vegetables color. Many carotenoids are also potent antixoxidants that have been associated with specific health benefits.

Researchers from Tufts University, Hebrew SeniorLife, and Boston University studied data of nearly 1,000 elderly men and women participating in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, which began in 1988. The average age of the participants was 75.

The researchers issued a 126-item food frequency questionnaire to measure the total carotenoid intake of each participant.

The participants were then followed for 17 years and a total of 100 hip fractures were documented.

The highest average intake of total carotenoids was associated with a lower risk of hip fractures.

The researchers also found that the specific carotenoid known as lycopene was particularly effective in reducing the risk of both non-vertebral fractures and hip fractures. Lycopene can be found most abundantly in processed tomato products, such as tomato sauce and ketchup.

This study supports the results of a previous study by the same researchers published in the January 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers suspect that the high antioxidant content of carotenoids is likely responsible for these positive results. Indeed, studies have shown that oxidative stress, which can be reduced by antioxidants, may increase bone resorption.

Bone resorption 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, potentially leading to osteoporosis and fractures.

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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