Does exercise or nutrition have a bigger positive impact on bone strength?

Exercise, nutrition and bone strength

One question that scientists and fitness experts alike would love to answer is whether exercise or nutrition has a bigger positive impact on bone strength.

Journal Reference:
Michael A. Friedman, Robert P. Szczepankiewicz, David H. Kohn. Combined mineral-supplemented diet and exercise increases bone mass and strength after eight weeks and maintains increases after eight weeks detraining in adult mice. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (9): e0204470 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204470

University of Michigan researchers looked at mineral supplementation and exercise in mice and found that nutrition has a greater impact on bone mass and strength than exercise. Even after the exercise training stopped the mice retained bone strength gains, as long as they ate a mineral-supplemented diet.

David Kohn, professor in the schools of dentistry and engineering said “the longer-term mineral-supplemented diet leads to not only increases in bone mass and strength, but the ability to maintain those increases even after detraining. This was done in mice, but if you think about the progression to humans, diet is easier for someone to carry on as they get older and stop exercising, rather than the continuation of exercise itself.”

The second important finding is that the diet alone has beneficial effects on bone, even without exercising. "The data suggests the long-term consumption of the mineral-supplemented diet could be beneficial in preventing the loss of bone and strength with age, even if you don't do exercise training," Kohn said.

Most other studies look at effects of increasing dietary calcium, but this study increased calcium and phosphorus and found benefits to increasing both. It is known that humans achieve peak bone mass in their early 20s, after that it declines. Kohn now raises the question how to maximise the amount of bone when young, so that when declines do begin, people start from a better position.

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