May was National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, and June is National Dairy Month. A healthy diet full of dairy can reduce your risk for poor bone health, among other diseases and disorders. Agriculture Is America spoke with Professor Connie M. Weaver at Purdue University, Professor Barbara Stoecker at Oklahoma State University, and Professor Emily Ho at Oregon State University, who are participants in Multistate Research Project W-3002 Nutrient Bioavailability, to learn more.
Q: What is bioavailability, and why is it important?
A: Bioavailability refers to the absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of food components. If a food component is not well absorbed or distributed to the body, this can dramatically affect its bioactivity, or action in the body.
Q: Tell us about Multistate Research Project W-3002. What is the project’s main objective?
A: The project’s main objective is to better understand the bioavailability and action of dietary nutrients and bioactive food components on various chronic diseases in the population, such as osteoporosis, cancer, inflammation, and obesity-related disorders.
Q: Besides Purdue University, Oklahoma State University, and Oregon State University, what other land-grant institutions work on W-3002?
- Iowa State University
- Kansas State University
- Montana State University
- Ohio State University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Rutgers University – New Jersey Food Science
- University of Arizona
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of California, Davis
- University of Connecticut – Storrs
- University of Illinois
- University of Maine
- University of Massachusetts
- University of Nebraska
Q: Since May was National Osteoporosis Month and June is National Dairy Month, can you tell us about some of W-3002’s findings that are directly correlated with bone health?
A: Several investigators study the role of essential nutrients and functional food ingredients on bone. Investigators from Indiana have determined calcium requirements in adolescents. Prebiotic fibers, which are a non-digestible food ingredient that can stimulate the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, have been shown to increase calcium absorption. Increased calcium absorption can help correct for low dietary calcium intakes. Prebiotic fibers are found in a variety of foods like whole grains, beans, and several other fruits and vegetables, but to get to 5 g of indigestible fiber per day (which is effective for increasing mineral absorption), it’s not so likely from just natural foods. Prebiotic fibers need to be added as a bioactive in foods.
Q: We hear a lot about super foods like chia seeds and kale that are supposed to be really good for you. What are some other super foods W-3002 came across in its research that could positively affect bone health?
A: The Dietary Guidelines recommend 3 servings of milk or equivalent to provide nutrients essential to bone. Prebiotic fibers increase absorption of minerals by shifting gut microbiota to ferment the fibers in the lower gut.
Q: Does consumer behavior play a role in all of this, as far as diet and healthy eating?
A: Yes. Researchers can provide the evidence base around why you should incorporate specific nutrients and food components in your diet, and why they are good for you – but ultimately it is still up to the consumer to adopt these habits. Research from this group will help identify health benefits, identify especially “at risk” populations and strategies to help increase bioavailability of nutrients you need.
Q: Based on your research, what are your top three tips for keeping bones strong and overall health and wellness?
- Incorporate 3 servings of low fat milk or equivalent calcium from other dairy sources in your diet every day.
- Weight-bearing exercise and adequate dietary calcium have interactive positive effects on bone.
- Avoid excess salt in the diet, which increases calcium loss from bones.
About Agriculture is America
Agriculture is America. In short, the agriculture industry – sustained in large part by the American land-grant university system through Colleges of Agriculture, Agricultural Experiment Stations, and Cooperative Extension – is integral to jobs, national security, and health.