18 January 2008

Chocolate makes bones flaky

There's increasing evidence that chocolate is good for the heart, but new research suggests it may not be so great for the bones.

There's increasing evidence that chocolate is good for the heart, but new research suggests it may not be so great for the bones.

Older women who ate chocolate every day had weaker, thinner bones than their peers who indulged less frequently, and the difference didn't appear to be due to overall dietary habits, Dr Jonathan M. Hodgson of the University of Western Australia School of Medicine and Pharmacology, Perth and colleagues found.

"This is the first study to investigate the relation between chocolate intake and bone structural measurements and raises concerns that frequent chocolate consumption may increase the risk of osteoporosis and fracture," Hodgson and his team write in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

May block calcium absorption
Chocolates are rich in flavonoids, which some studies suggest can be good for the bones, the researchers say. However, they add, chocolate also contains oxalate, which blocks the absorption of calcium, and sugar, which can boost calcium excretion.

To investigate chocolate's effect on the bones, the researchers looked at 1 001 women aged 70 to 85 who were participating in a study of calcium supplementation and fracture risk.

Women who were daily chocolate consumers had a 3.1 percent lower bone density, on average, than those who ate chocolate less than once a week, as well as weaker bones in the heel and tibia, or shin bone.

Frequent chocolate eaters ate the same amount of fresh fruit and vegetables as those who ate chocolate less often. They also consumed no more saturated fats, carbohydrates or sugar, and less protein, starch, fibre, and potassium.

Women who ate chocolate every day weighed less and, on average, had a lower body mass index (BMI), the ratio of height to weight, a formula frequently used to determine if an individual is over- or underweight. The chocolate eaters also consumed more calories and had a higher socioeconomic status.

Constituent of chocolate to blame
The relationship between heavy chocolate consumption and lower bone density remained even after the researchers took these factors into account. They suggest: "the effect may be associated with a constituent of chocolate rather than an associated lifestyle or dietary factor."

They call for further studies to confirm or disprove the relationship, and conclude that "confirmation could have important implications for the prevention of osteoporosis and fracture."

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2008. – (Reuters Health)

Read more:
Chocolate soothes arteries
Chocolate better than kisses

January 2008


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Healthy Bones

Tereza is the CEO of the National Osteoporosis Foundation and worked as a Nursing Sister in the field of Osteoporosis for 18 years prior to her appointment with the Foundation. She used to be the Educational Officer for the Foundation and co-wrote the patient brochure on Osteoporosis. Read more

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules