For strong bones and for a lower risk of bone fracture, calcium and vitamin D are essential. But from today, we know that the health of our bones also has another ally, sweet peppers! Yes, because the carotenoids contained in sweet peppers were found to be able to reduce the risk of bone fracture and to increase bone strength, as emerges from a recent scientific research published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research by a Japanese team (Umigai et al., FNR, 2020).
Bones change all the time
Although it may seem strange, bones are not a static tissue, but they keep renewing themselves. Indeed, their integrity is guaranteed by the constant remodeling they undergo throughout the whole person's life. Remodeling is a delicate process in which two opposite phenomena participate. On the one hand, there is bone resorption by the osteoclasts, and on the other there is bone formation by the osteoblasts. The balance between the two processes ensures the health of the bones, which are kept strong and not at risk of fragility. However, some conditions can alter this balance and lead to osteoporosis, with an increased risk of bone fractures. An example of these conditions is given by menopause, in which estrogen deficiency leads to high bone resorption, which is not counterbalanced by the formation of new bone.
Strong bones and nutrition
And does nutrition play a role in protecting bones? Previous studies have shown that the action of calcium and vitamin D can help reduce the risk of bone fractures. Indeed, Calcium is essential for the formation of bone tissue. Vitamin D, on the other hand, promotes the absorption of calcium. But that's not all, it has also been observed that carotenoids can help make bones stronger and less prone to fractures. For example, a high consumption of foods rich in carotenoids is linked to a reduction in the risk of pelvic fractures. Not only that, laboratory studies have allowed the scientists to hypothesize that carotenoids are capable of reducing bone resorption. To better understand the action of carotenoids on bone health and, above all, any benefits of these substances in a delicate period such as menopause, Japanese scientists have developed a research, let's try to understand better.
The role of carotenoids, the experiment
The researchers recruited 100 healthy, menopausal women over the age of 40. The volunteers were divided into two groups, the first group was asked to take 20 mg per day for 24 weeks of pepper carotenoid extracts, which are capsanthin, beta-carotene, beta cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin. The second group was used as a control. At the beginning, during and at the end of the 24 weeks, the volunteers underwent blood tests to assess the presence of bone turnover indicators, such as TRACP-5b, which is an enzyme produced by osteoclasts. TRACP-5b therefore indicates how the bone resorption action proceeds, increases immediately after the onset of menopause to reach a peak a year and a half later, then decreases slightly but always remains at high levels even in subsequent years. It is believed that TRACP-5b helps predict the risk of fractures caused by osteoporosis, the higher the values of this enzyme, in particular, the greater the risk of bone fracture.
How pepper carotenoids strengthen bones
Since the study included several women at the onset of menopause, what the researchers expected was to see a progressive increase in TRACP-5b over the course of the experiment. Instead, it was found that the pepper extracts were able to suppress the increase in TRACP-5b. The explanation is that the carotenoids of sweet pepper reduced the number of osteoclasts and therefore partially inhibited bone resorption.
So, from today we know that even consuming sweet peppers can help us protect our bones, in every age of life. To ensure the benefits of the carotenoids contained in sweet pepper, it can be eaten quickly cooked in a pan with the addition of extra virgin olive oil.