|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on July 23, 2016 at 9:05 PM|
Currently, an estimated ten million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, causing more than a million fractures, including hundreds of thousands of hip fractures, a common reason people end up in nursing homes. Many older women say they’d rather be dead than break their hip and end up in a home.
Bone is a dynamic, living organ that is constantly renewed through a process of remodeling and modeling involving bone breakdown by cells that eat bone, called osteoclasts, and bone formation by cells that build bone, called osteoblasts. Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance between bone loss and bone gain, most often related to hormonal changes that occur during menopause. Is there anything we can do to help tip the balance back in bone’s favor? There are a number of specific compounds in plant foods that look promising, but that’s based on in vitro studies like this, where they basically just drip some plant compound on bone cells in a petri dish and see a boost in bone builder cells, or a drop in bone eater cells. But no matter how much people like cranberry sauce, they’re not injecting it into their veins. For phytonutrients to reach the bone, they first have to get absorbed from the digestive tract into our bloodstream and make it past the liver before they can circulate to our skeleton. So, what we would need is a so-called ex vivo study, where you take people, feed them a food—or not—and then draw their blood a few hours later and then drip their blood onto bone cells and see if there’s any difference. But nothing like that had ever been attempted… until this study.
Normally, I’m not impressed with studies funded by marketing boards, which pay for studies like this, that found that eating almonds improved cycling distance and athletic performance… compared to cookies. But this study was brilliant, not surprisingly, given it was performed in the world-famous lab of Dr. David Jenkins. There was a population study that suggested that eating almonds could protect against osteoporosis; so, they could have just dripped some almond extract on bone cells, but that’s not testing the whole food. Instead you could treat bone cells with the blood obtained from donors fed the whole food to directly test the effects of these foods at the cellular level.
So, they exposed human osteoclasts, the bone eaters, to blood obtained before and four hours after eating a handful of almonds. But wait a second, before I get to the results, if you ate a handful of almonds every day, wouldn’t you gain weight—that’s almost 200 calories? Let’s find out. If you add a handful or a handful and a half—like 35 almonds in addition to women’s regular diet as a mid-morning snack, and tell them to eat as much as they want for lunch and supper that day, people eat less; in fact so much less, they cancel out the nut calories. In this study, they all had the same breakfast, then zero, 173 or 259 calories worth of almonds as a snack, then ate as much lunch as they wanted, but the nuts appeared to be so satiating that they ate less for lunch or dinner such that, at the end of the day, there was no significant difference in total caloric intake between any of the three groups. Part of the reason we don’t tend to gain weight adding nuts to our diet may be because we end up flushing nearly a third of the calories down the toilet, because we just don’t chew well enough. This is why we think there’s so much less fat in our bloodstream after eating whole almonds compared to the same amount of almond oil taken out of the nuts.
So anyway, they wanted to see if they could suppress the activity of the cells that eat away our bones. And they found that blood serum obtained following the consumption of an almond meal inhibits human osteoclast formation, function, and gene expression, providing direct evidence to support the association between regular almond consumption and a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis. They also tried before and after eating other meals, rice or potatoes, to make sure there wasn’t just some effect of eating in general and no, the protective effect did appear specific to the almonds.