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Does Fiber Improve Bone Health?

12/10/2019 3:21:43 PM
bone mineral densityWhether fiber helps or hinders bone health is a subject of debate. Some professional guidelines for osteoporosis advise against the consumption of fiber because of its potential to interfere with calcium absorption. On the other hand, there is a plausible mechanism to suggest that fiber might actually facilitate calcium absorption by producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and expanding the intestinal lumen for a larger absorptive surface.
 
Study results on the relationship between fiber intake and bone health are conflicting. So, researchers attempted to further explore this question by analyzing cross-sectional data from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2011.

Study analyzes bone mineral density (BMD) and fiber connection

The analysis included data from 2187 Korean adults, with a mean age of 52 years. Anyone with a diagnosis of osteoporosis, taking an osteoporosis medication, or with a condition that is associated with secondary osteoporosis was excluded from the analysis.

Bone mineral density (BMD) results were analyzed by dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), and fiber intake was analyzed by a 24-hour dietary recall. The average intake of daily fiber was 9.1 grams per day for men and 6.3 grams per day for women. This amount was far below the recommended amount of daily consumption.

BMD of younger and older individuals examined

Results showed that higher dietary fiber intake was significantly associated with greater BMD of L1 and L2 vertebrae in men between the ages of 18 and 45. For each additional 1 g of fiber consumed per day, there was a 0.004 g/cm2 increase in BMD. However, there was no relationship between fiber intake and BMD in men older than age 45 or in any age group of women. 

BMD may relate to fiber and nutrient intake

The study also looked at associations between BMD and intake of protein, fat, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C. Results showed that consuming more protein was associated with lower BMD in men aged 18-45. Higher intake of fat was associated with lower BMD in men aged 65 and older but higher BMD in women aged 18-45.
 
Although the results are this study are not particularly robust, there is some indication that fiber consumption may support greater BMD in young men. More studies are needed to better understand the interaction between fiber and bone health.  
 
Reference
Lee T, Suh HS. Associations between Dietary Fiber Intake and Bone Mineral Density in Adult Korean Population: Analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2011. J Bone Metab. 2019; 26: 151-160.