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Popular Diets & Bone Health

We hear a lot about various diets for achieving good health. These include the Paleo Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Alkaline Diet, South Beach Diet, Atkins Diet, and many more. New diets are invented regularly, and a magazine for registered dietitians keeps them informed with articles like, “What are the names of some of the fad diets in 2016 that clients may ask dietitians about?”  These diets may have long term benefits while others are found to be ineffective or occasionally harmful. It wasn’t very long ago that high carbohydrate diets were popular but now the emphasis is more on lower intake of carbohydrates, especially sugar.

To the casual observer, all of this is very confusing, but there are often hidden reasons why one diet works and another doesn’t. For example high carbohydrate diets that are beneficial often emphasize the need for plenty of exercise along with high fiber and grains for healthy fat intake. People who just consume unhealthy carbohydrates may be at greater risk for weight gain and diabetes.

Similarly, the Alkaline Diet is probably beneficial because of the emphasis on consumption of fruits and vegetables that are low in sodium but high in potassium, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, there is no evidence that controlling urinary pH over a five year period decreases the risk of fractures or improves bone mineral density.  High acid intake may require the bones to use calcium to keep the blood from becoming acidic, but the body uses many methods of neutralize excessive acid.

Also, there is no correlation between urinary calcium loss and osteoporosis because high urinary calcium excretion may simply reflect high calcium intake as the body uses what it needs and gets rid of the excess. Also, a scientific review of multiple research studies concluded, “calcium balance is maintained and improved with phosphate which is quite contrary to the acid-ash hypothesis.” One only needs to consider the foods that are part of the Alkaline Diet to question the inclusion of highly acidic foods such as Lemons, Oranges, Apples and other foods that are clearly acidic. Proponents of the Alkaline Diet may tell you that extremely acidic lemon juice is dissociated in the body to make the blood alkaline but the scientific explanations are often similar to explanations from ancient alchemists who claimed to turn lead into gold. The major benefit of healthy fad diets is that they provide a framework for consumption of healthy foods. The major drawback of fad diets is that they may limit the intake of other healthy foods.

The best advice is often given by registered dietitians who advise that various diets may be helpful, but this depends on specific needs of the individual including their lifestyle, body type, and exercise habits.  The best diet includes a variety of healthy foods from all food groups with lower consumption of red meats and higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

While healthy foods are the best choice for your nutritional needs, the USDA has reported that four out of five Americans fail to consume the recommended daily amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Supplemental vitamins and minerals have been shown to help people who have insufficient intake of major vitamins and minerals. Our advice for healthy bones is to eat a variety of healthy foods and supplement that diet with carefully selected vitamins mineral supplements.

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