When most people think of osteoporosis, they assume it is caused by a calcium deficiency. While there’s no doubt that calcium plays a role in the disease, the incidence of osteoporosis is highest in countries with the highest intake of calcium. So that leaves room for doubt that just getting more calcium is enough to prevent this serious bone disease.
New research in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging found that another nutrient deficiency may be playing a role in the debilitating disease that currently affects more than 25 million elderly Americans, of whom 80 percent are women. Scientists at The Department of Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada restricted the intake of the nutrient lycopene for one month in healthy post-menopausal women.
They found that restricting lycopene for only one month caused a significant increase in markers for oxidative stress and breakdown of bone, and concluded that lycopene may help in the prevention of osteoporosis. Technically, it’s more of a insufficiency than a deficiency, but obviously low levels of lycopene are harmful to the bones. Prior to this study, research has focused on the anti-aging and anti-cancer effects of lycopene.
Fortunately, it’s easy to get more lycopene in your diet. It’s primarily found in tomatoes (be sure to check out my blog 9 Reasons to Love Tomatoes) and watermelon (check out my blogs The Fruit that Works like Viagra and 3 Super-Healing Summer Melons), as well as red, yellow, and orange peppers. When it comes to tomatoes, lycopene is best absorbed from cooked yellow and orange ones. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat raw red ones—just mix things up for best absorption.
Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.