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Chocolates may raise bone disease risk

Chocolate, considered good for the heart, may not be so great for the bones.

Chocolates may raise bone disease risk

Chocolate, considered good for the heart, may not be so great for the bones. Nutrition is important for the development and maintenance of bone structure and for the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures. Chocolates are rich in flavonoids, which some studies suggest can be good for the bones. However, they also contain oxalate, which blocks the absorption of calcium, and sugar, which can boost calcium excretion. To investigate chocolate's effect on the bones, Australian researchers looked at 1,001 women aged 70–85 years who were participating in a study of calcium supplementation and fracture risk. Bone density and strength were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA scan), computed tomography (CT scan) and quantitative ultrasonography. Frequency of chocolate intake was assessed through a questionnaire and classified into 3 categories: <1 time/week, 1–6 times/week and once/day. It was found that older women who consumed chocolates daily had a three percent lower bone density, on average, than those who ate chocolate less than once a week, as well as weaker bones in the heel and tibia, or shin bone. Women who ate chocolate every day weighed less and, on average had a lower body mass index, i.e. the ratio of height to weight. Frequent chocolate eaters ate the same amount of fresh fruit and vegetables as those who ate chocolate less often. They also consumed no more saturated fats, carbohydrates or sugar, and less protein, starch, fibre, and potassium. The chocolate eaters also consumed more calories and had a higher socio-economic status. Even after taking all these factors into account, the relationship between heavy chocolate consumption and lower bone density remained. The effect may be associated with a constituent of chocolate rather than an associated lifestyle or dietary factor. The findings raise a concern that frequent chocolate consumption may increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, and warrant further research to confirm or disprove the relationship.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
January 2008
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