Building Better Bones One Glass at a Time

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  But sometimes, numbers can be just as illustrative, especially when those numbers refer to devastating medical conditions.  Follow the numbers and you’ll see what I mean:

25 –billion dollars is the estimated cost of osteoporosis-related fractures by 2025

10 – million people in the U.S have osteoporosis

34 – million people in the U.S. have low bone mass

24 – percent of people over the age of 50 who sustain a hip fracture go on to die within a year of their fracture

80 – percent of osteoporosis cases are women

5 – times more osteoporosis-related hospital visits in 2010 compared to 2000 (2000:  1.3 million; 2010:  6.3 million)

These numbers are a stark reminder that osteoporosis isn’t going away any time soon.  But why?  Why with our vast medical know-how and resources are osteoporosis cases increasing?

Well, when you consider the panoply of ways one can increase their risk for this brittle bone disease, the answer becomes clearer.  From conditions we can’t control (e.g. gender, older age, family history), to errors in judgment (e.g. smoking, sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption), it seems that everything we do increases our osteoporosis risk.

But I’m of the belief that if we can’t change something, there’s no use in worrying about it.  And a lot of the things that increase our risk for osteoporosis are unavoidable. What we should worry about – and therefore change – are our behaviors and how they contribute to osteoporosis.  Because a significant chunk of the behaviors that increase our risk are what we put in our mouths.

A Tomato Juice a Day Keeps Osteoporosis at Bay?

You gotta hand it to Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  Brillat-Savarin wasn’t a particularly noteworthy lawyer back in the 17th century, except for the time in which he wrote this:  “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”

In modern day parlance, that translates to what we know as “You are what you eat.” Now, I very much doubt Brillat-Savarin had osteoporosis in mind when he wrote this, but he might as well have, because that axiom can be applied to one’s osteoporosis risk.

According to a 2006 study conducted by Tufts University researchers, women who drank cola regularly were far more likely to have lower bone mineral density than those women who didn’t drink cola.

The Tufts University researchers conducted a survey of 2,500 people whose average age was 60.  And, quite simply, as lead researcher Katherine Tucker writes in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “The more cola women drank, the lower their bone mineral density was.”

A disappointing finding, no doubt, for fans of the fizz.  But take heart and replace that can of fizzle with a glass of sizzle.

“The glass of sizzle” of which I speak is tomato juice, for a group of Torontonian researchers have found it to be osteoporosis-preventive.

University of Toronto researchers supplied four groups of middle-aged women (between 50 and 60) with varying doses of lycopene, the chemical component in tomatoes that’s much ballyhooed for its salubriousness (i.e. one group received a lycopene supplement, another received a glass of tomato juice with naturally occurring lycopene).  The only group that didn’t receive a dose of lycopene was the group taking the placebo (they didn’t know this, of course).

The researchers took blood samples from the participants every month of the four-month study.  Every month showed blood-serum level improvements, but especially at the four-month mark.  Because at that point not only did the participants’ blood-serum levels improve, but their antioxidant capacity increased as well.  Further, their oxidative stress parameters decreased.

Tucker’s findings can be found in thejournal Osteoporosis International.

Other Ways to Increase Bone Density

Tomato juice is an acquired taste, so it’s understandable if you’re not hot to trot for downing some tomato juice.  If you do, though, I’d recommend steering clear of store-bought tomato juice.  They’re exceptionally high in sodium and don’t taste nearly as good as freshly squeezed tomatoes do.  You’ll need to add some unrefined sea salt to taste, just don’t overdo it (about one teaspoon of salt should be added for every four cups of tomato juice).  Lots of healthy recipes can be found online.

But if you’re not hog-wild about the idea of drinking a glass of tomato juice every day, there are other foods you can eat to help decrease your risk for osteoporosis.  And you guessed it: calcium-fortified foods are best.

Fortunately, calcium-rich foods aren’t hard to find.  Plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and proteins are chock-full of this bone-building vitamin.  Here are three of the top calcium providers by food group:


It’s the battle of the “b’s” when it comes to vegetables, as bok choy  (one cup=158 mg), Brussels sprouts (56 mg), and butternut squash (84 mg) are all “A’s” for calcium content.


In the fruit category, it’s not the size of the fruit that matters for calcium content, as bite-size offerings like Blackcurrants (one cup=62 mg), dates (57 mg) and blackberries (42 mg) have the highest yield.


Not surprisingly, dairy sources of protein are the highest in calcium, with cheddar cheese as the runaway leader (one cup=815 mg), followed by cottage cheese (103 mg) and cream cheese (one cup=83 mg).  But if you tend to avoid dairy because of its high saturated fat content, perch (3.5 oz.=102 mg), pollock (77 mg) and sardines (3382 mg) are worthy replacements (Caution:  If you’re one of the few Americans who actually enjoy sardines, eat them sparingly.  They’re almost as saturated with sodium as store bought tomato juice is:  a whopping 505 mg for every 3.5 ounces eaten!).

Nuts, Seeds, Grains

The almighty almond takes top billing in this combined category, boasting 75 milligrams of calcium for every ounce eaten (approximately 23 whole almonds); the ancient but underused high-protein grain amaranth is the runner-up with 47 milligrams (i.e. Amaranth is used in only 40 food products on the market today), and brazil nuts’ 45 milligrams of calcium (per ounce) round out the top three.

By working any of these bone-building foods into your diet consistently, you’re giving your bones the structural integrity they need to stay strong for as long as possible.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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