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How Beans Help Our Bones

Health authorities from all over the world universally recommend increasing the consumption of whole grains and legumes—beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils—for health promotion. But what about the phytates?

Phytate is a naturally occurring compound found in all plant seeds (like beans, grains, and nuts) that over the decades has been maligned as mineral absorption inhibitors. That’s why, for example, we hear advice to roast, sprout, or soak our nuts to get rid of the phytates so we can absorb more minerals, like calcium.

The concern about phytates and bone health arose from a series of laboratory experiments performed on puppies published in 1949, which suggested that high phytate diets have a bone softening and anti-calcifying effect. Subsequent studies on rats, in which they fed them the equivalent of ten loaves of bread a day, “confirmed” phytate’s status as a so-called anti-nutrient. But more recently, in the light of actual human data, phytate’s image has undergone a makeover.

A recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food asked a simple question: Do people who avoid high phytate foods—legumes, nuts, and whole grains—have better bone mineral density? No. Those that consumed more high-phytate foods actually had stronger bones, as measured in the heel, spine and hip. The researchers conclude that dietary phytate consumption had protective effects against osteoporosis and that low phytate consumption should actually be what’s considered an osteoporosis risk factor.

A follow-up study, measuring phytate levels flowing through women’s bodies and following bone mass over time, found the same thing: women with the highest phytate levels had the lowest levels of bone loss in the spine and hip. Those who ate the most phytates were also estimated to have a significantly lower risk of major fracture, and a lower risk of hip fracture specifically.

This is consistent with reports that phytate can inhibit the dissolution of bone similar to anti-osteoporosis drugs like Fosamax. Phytates don’t have the side effects, though, such as osteonecrosis (bone death) associated with that class of drugs. People take these drugs to protect their bones, but by doing so may also risk rotting them away.

Beans might not just help our skeleton last longer, but the rest of us as well. See Increased Lifespan From Beans.

How might one counteract some of the mineral blocking effects? See New Mineral Absorption Enhancers Found.

Alkaline Diets, Animal Protein, & Calcium Loss is another surprising video on bone health.

And more on the surprising benefits can be found in my videos:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Related:
Why You Should Eat More Beans
Canned Beans or Cooked Beans?
Increased Lifespan From Beans

Read more: Health, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Healthy Aging, Men's Health, Natural Remedies, Osteoporosis, Videos, Women's Health, , , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

123 comments

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12:05PM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

good to know

11:24AM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

I think that one should eat as wide a variety of beans, seeds, leafy greens and everything else as one can. Our bodies were made to use whatever nutrients we put into them as and where they need it. Hence why it's so destructive to get stuck only eating 10-15 things over and over.

3:02PM PDT on May 31, 2014

Thank you :)

7:26PM PDT on May 30, 2014

interesting--thanks

7:30PM PDT on May 29, 2014

Beans are great!
Thank you

6:39AM PDT on May 29, 2014

Don't eat enough. Not a lover of beans or legumes.

6:38AM PDT on May 29, 2014

Thanks

12:28AM PDT on May 27, 2014

thanks, I love beans

1:29PM PDT on May 26, 2014

Tks

10:53AM PDT on May 26, 2014

Love beans

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