Osteoporosis Diet: Certain Foods May Prevent Bone Breakdown

New Osteoporosis Diet: Certain Foods May Prevent Bone BreakdownThe “Midlife women, bone health, vegetables, herbs and fruit study,” otherwise known as the “Scarborough Fair Study” is an exciting study currently underway to test a new osteoporosis diet. Based on the discovery that specific vegetables, fruit and herbs block bone tissue from breaking down, the study will examine whether post menopausal women who make these foods a daily part of their diet improve their bone health. Researchers from the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at Massey University in New Zealand theorized that increasing fruits and vegetables to nine or more servings daily (and including these specific fruits and vegetables as a portion of those nine servings) could be “a useful dietary strategy to ameliorate bone loss particularly at critical times such as menopause.”

Studies in animals about a decade ago discovered certain foods that have “bone resorption inhibiting properties.” Bone resorption is the name for the body’s normal process of breaking down bone. Bone resorption is usually counterbalanced by bone formation, so that no net loss of bone occurs. If the rate of bone resorption speeds up and becomes greater than bone formation, as often happens to women after menopause, osteoporosis risk increases as bones become weaker, thinner, and more prone to break. Some fruits, vegetables, and herbs can actually inhibit the bone resorption process and may stall or even reverse the problem of excessive bone loss. 

So what are these mysterious vegetables, fruits, and herbs? It turns out they aren’t anything mysterious, exotic, or hard to find, but rather, some of the most commonly eaten plant foods in Western diets.

Vegetables and fruits able to inhibit bone resorption include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Cucumber
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Prunes
  • Oranges

Herbs with bone resorption inhibiting properties are:

  • Dill
  • Sage
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary

Study participants asked to include 4-5 daily servings of foods known to inhibit bone breakdown

The Scarborough Fair Study is a randomized trial in 100 post-menopausal women who typically eat 5 or less servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  The women were divided into three groups. One group continued with their usual diet low in fruits and vegetables. The two other groups increased their fruit and vegetable intake to 9 or more servings a day (including 3 or less servings of fruits and 6 or more servings of vegetables). However, the diet of each group emphasized different fruit/vegetables/herbs with one group selecting from the list of vegetables, fruit and herbs with bone resorption inhibiting properties. That group was instructed to make sure at least half of their fruits and vegetables (4-5 servings) were those with bone resorption inhibiting properties (from the list above) while the other group was instructed to avoid them altogether.

Why does this diet improve bone health?

After 12 weeks, the women will be assessed for markers of bone resorption, inflammation, and acidity/alkalinity in order to get an overall picture of their bone health and the rate of bone breakdown. Increasing fruit and especially vegetables to nine or more servings per day is known to benefit each of these variables by providing increased levels of nutrients essential for bone formation, by reducing the body’s acidity, and by providing phytochemicals that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Adding the specific bone resorption inhibiting foods is hypothesized to lead to even greater benefits by blocking bone breakdown.

Don’t wait…take advantage of these foods now

You don’t need to wait for the results of the Skarborough Fair Study to be published to take advantage of this osteoporosis diet.  You can’t go wrong with the goal of eating at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day while making sure at least 4-5 of those are fruits and vegetables that inhibit bone breakdown by choosing from the list above. In addition, use the culinary herbs listed above to inhibit bone breakdown even more. The study subjects were advised to eat 2-3 cloves of garlic, ½ to 1 teaspoon dried or fresh chopped herbs, or ¼ cup parsley. Since vitamin K is also known to improve bone health and reduce fracture risk, the subjects were also advised to include one serving of a leafy green vegetable in their diet every day to control for vitamin K intake. As a bonus, green leafy vegetables are also rich in calcium. This forms the basis of an excellent diet for osteoporosis treatment and prevention. For more great information about how your diet influences your bones, see our following articles:


[1] BMC Public Health. 2013 Jan 10;13:23.

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UHN Staff

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  • NEW QUESTIONS FROM COMMUNITY MEMBERS

    A. What is the best diet for a woman over 40 to prevent osteoporosis?
    B. Is there a diet that i should follow to stop the progression of my osteoporosis.

  • Thank you for publishing–something, anything–on the Scarborough Fair diet for bone health. I don’t know why this important research on specific foods and herbs with “bone resorption inhibiting properties” has not been more widely reported, when it could help millions of people make simple, scientifically validated, dietary choices that would help preserve and strengthen the only bones they will ever have.

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