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Beer, Bananas and Beans: The three B’s to stronger bones

Research indicates that silicon is important to bone formation. However, whether or not our bodies can get what we need from the foods we eat has been poorly understood. Douglas P. Kiel, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Medical Research at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged Research & Training Institute has co-authored a report indicating that eating the right foods can supply the silicon necessary to build and maintain strong bones. The report, Dietary silicon intake and absorption, appears in the June 2002 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Dr. Kiel is part of a research team that took a look at the diets of a group of men and women who are participants in the Framingham Study and the Framingham Offspring Study* and measured silicon uptake in these individuals. According to the report, the men in the study consumed more silicon than women did, and consumption declined in both men and women with age. The major food sources for the men were beer and bananas and for the women, bananas and string beans.

As a key contributing factor to bone health, silicon has strong implications for playing a role in prevention of osteoporosis.

“Very little attention has been paid to the role of silicon in the diet. Our collaboration with investigators in London, England (Drs. Jonathan Powell and Raven Jugdaosingh) has enabled us to combine joint expertise in the basic science lab with epidemiological approaches,” explains Dr. Kiel.

He continues, “Silicon appears to be important to the bone cells called osteoblasts that make new bone. The osteoblast does not function as well as we age. Part of the reason for this age-related change in osteoblast function might relate to silicon.”

Fractures that result from osteoporosis pose a particular health threat to seniors, often precipitating a decline in over all health status leading to disability, loss of independence and in worse cases, death. This study indicates that further study to better understand the association between dietary silicon intake and bone health is needed.

Dr. Kiel is known internationally for his research on osteoporosis. His pioneering studies have increased understanding of risk factors for bone loss and fractures, and continue to discover effective ways to prevent and treat osteoporosis.