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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Reaching for an apple instead of a cookie doesn't only keep the weight off, it may also prevent broken bones later in life, according to a study.
Older women who eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains may have a lower chance of bone fractures than those who pass on such healthy fare, the study -- published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition -- added.
While other studies have found that people with higher intakes of specific nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D, have greater bone mass and suffer fewer fractures as they age, little has been known about the impact of overall diet patterns.
"Previous research has shown that dietary patterns are related to the risk of several adverse health outcomes, but the relation of these patterns to skeletal fragility is not well understood," wrote Lisa Langsetmo at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who headed the research team.
Langsetmo and her colleagues studied 3,539 postmenopausal women and 1,649 men aged 50 or older, focusing on the relationship between "nutrient density" -- a food's concentration of nutrients in relation to calories -- and the risk of bone fractures.
At the start of the study, participants filled out detailed diet questionnaires. The research then calculated nutrient density scores for each person.
A diet high in nutrient density would feature plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and fish. One high in calorie density might include things such as desserts, potato chips and processed meats.
Over the next 7 years, 70 men and 372 women in the study sustained fractures unrelated to major accidents.
In general, the research found that for each 40 percent increase in calories from fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods, the odds of suffering a fracture over 10 years fell by 14 percent among women.
This was true even when accounting for other factors such as body weight, bone density, smoking habits and calcium and vitamin D intake.
There was a similar pattern among men that did not reach statistical significance.
But there was no relationship, however, between fracture risk and diets high in calorie-dense foods.
Langsetmo said that while the current research does not prove a nutrient-rich diet prevents fractures, the message is that a diet already seen to be healthier -- by lowering risks of heart disease and diabetes -- may also be good for bone health.
She also noted that people with nutrient-rich eating habits also tend to be more health-conscious than people who shun vegetables, getting more exercise and being less likely to smoke.
In addition, it is also unclear how much of a difference diet changes might make.
Source: : link.reuters.com/suw85q
Reporting by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies