Almonds for stronger bones?

Published 4.6.2017
Osteoporosis remains an ongoing interest here in the Arena. I don't often feature videos from Michael Greger's Nutritionfacts.org because well, as a vegan advocate, every answer to almost any question amounts to “eat more plants.” But this video was interesting, because it suggested that eating almonds daily could be good for bone mineral density (BMD), based on 2011 study results.

After viewing it, I thought, almonds mIght have to become part of my breakfast. Almonds and prunes (also associated with improved BMD), works for me.

However, after doing some more research and reading some of the comments, the nuts were raw and unblanched. That’s not how I eat them, that’s not how I’m going to eat them. Almonds are unlikely to be special— other nuts have the same mineral content. Still, almonds won’t hurt anything. And if they help my bones and keep me from snacking so much, so much the better.

This is the study the video is based on. The rest of the sources just showed adding almonds didn’t raise weight because after eating them people ate less. Here is the abstract:

Consumption of almonds has been associated with increased bone mineral density, but the direct effects of almonds on bone cells are not known. We determined whether serum obtained following the consumption of a meal containing 60 g of almonds affects human osteoclast formation, function, and gene expression in vitro. Human osteoclast precursors were cultured in medium containing 10% serum obtained from 14 healthy subjects at baseline and 4 hours following the consumption of 3 test meals containing almonds, potatoes, and rice and balanced for macronutrient composition. Osteoclast formation was determined by the number of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP)(+) multinucleated cells, and osteoclast function was assessed by measuring TRAP activity in the culture medium and calcium released from OsteoAssay (Lonza Walkersville, Walkersville, MD, USA) plates. The expression of cathepsin K, receptor activator of nuclear factor kB, and matrix metalloproteinase-9 genes was measured by real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Compared with serum obtained at baseline, serum obtained 4 hours following the consumption of the almond meal reduced osteoclast formation by approximately 20%, TRAP activity by approximately 15%, calcium release by approximately 65%, and the expression of cathepsin K, receptor activator of nuclear factor kB, and matrix metalloproteinase-9 by 13% to 23%. No effects were observed with serum obtained from the other test meals. Serum obtained 4 hours following the consumption of an almond meal inhibits osteoclast formation, function, and gene expression in cultured human osteoclast precursors, and provides evidence for a positive effect of almonds on bone health.

The abstract was all I could access, however, I did have some thoughts after reading it. I weighed out some almonds and learned that 60g of almonds is a BUTT ton of almonds. That amount of the dry roasted unsalted almonds we buy would be 356 calories.

If eating almonds works, it ought to be dose specific and related to the size of the subject. The study was ex-vivo which means they took blood from people who ate almonds and dripped in on osteoclasts (which eat the bone) and found that inhibited osteoclast function.

I may add almonds to my breakfast, but not 60g worth. The good news is that amount gives me 160 mg of Ca. But that’s less than 45 g (¼ cup) of chia seeds give for 221 calories. That’s a scant ½ cup of nuts.

And since the study was funded by the almond board, no other nuts were tested. What, after all, is in the almonds having this effect? Dr Fuhrman says it’s the magnesium content and the phytate content— note that he makes no distinction in favor of almonds.

Greger slams studies funding by groups promoting animal products— shouldn’t studies from groups promoting plants be as suspect? Or accept them all and analyze the results.

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