The Right Snack for Your Back: Study Finds Diet More Beneficial Than Exercise for Bone Health
Healthy Bones: Happy Backs
There’s no debate that healthy bones mean healthy spines. Degeneration of bones lead to numerous conditions in this part of the body, most notably spondylosis, or osteoarthritis of the vertebrae. And while there are a number of successful treatment options, there’s benefit in heading off the progression of such diseases before they start. Good health habits, such as ensuring you get proper exercise and eating a healthy diet are certainly going to help.
However, according to a study recently published in the academic journal, PLoS One, evidence was found that diet is actually more influential than exercise when it comes to bone health.  Here’s a quick, closer look at this research as well as the dietary factors that influence spine health.
Drs. Michael A. Friedman, Robert P. Szczepankiewicz, and David H. Kohn of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, wanted to figure out how well exercise and diet, versus exercise alone, influenced bone health. They split a population of similarly aged male mice into several groups, including one with no diet or exercise intervention (to serve as a baselin); one fed a diet that emphasized minerals and boosted bone health but did not exercise; another fed the special diet and also undergoing a regular exercise regimen; and one fed a normal diet but doing the exercise.  Over the course of 16 weeks, the bone density and strength of the mice were tracked.
Interestingly, the researchers found a distinct effect, one that surprised even them. As expected, the mice that had specialized diets and exercised had by far the most robust effects in terms of bone strength and health. But, in groups where the mineral-heavy diet was used, and in which the mice did exercise for eight weeks but then stopped, clear long-term positive effects were seen. Even without exercising, the mice that ate healthily had better than baseline bones.  Clearly, diets that emphasize minerals were having an outsized effect.
Minerals & Mounting Evidence
There’s more work to be done when it comes to this research; the researchers themselves noted that this was more preliminary work. Nonetheless, the veracity of this effect was quite clear, and, according to Dr. Kohn, “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.”  For those whose back or bone problems are preventing activity, this is promising news.
Importantly, this isn’t to suggest that exercise is not beneficial; the most robust effect—the strongest and healthiest bones—was seen in the groups that combined exercise and diet. But, to the surprise of the researchers, diet alone did do better than exercise alone.  It’s worth thinking about picking up calcium, phosphorous, or other bone-supporting supplements next time you’re at the store.
The Next Step
Unlike many other fields, scientists rarely let themselves get swept up with too much excitement, even from their own positive findings. While there are plenty of reasons that this research can apply to humans—and it should certainly guide future work—there’s always a chance that what might be the case in mice doesn’t translate. What emerges here, though, is further evidence that exercise and dietary adjustments can help with bones in the spine and throughout the body.
If you’re concerned about the health of your spine or are feeling symptoms, it’s important that your approach is multifaceted. Alongside medical consultation, it can no doubt help to think about preventative strategies and other means of taking on pain and suffering. Do note, though, that you should talk to your doctor if you plan on making lifestyle adjustments; they’re there to get you on the right track.
If you’re suffering with spondylosis or any other back or neck condition, the team at North American Spine can help. The experts here employ the latest in minimally-invasive surgeries or other contemporary treatments for a wide range of cases. Learn more about what they do by calling 469-638-0208 today!
- Friedman, Michael A., Robert P. Szczepankiewicz, and David H. Kohn. 2018. “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 ONE13 (9): e0204470. Public Library of Science (PLoS). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0204470.
- “Nutrition Has A Greater Impact On Bone Strength Than Exercise”. 2018. Sciencedaily. Accessed October 30 2018. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/