Carotenoids linked to fewer hip fractures

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Hip fracture Osteoporosis Carotenoid

Increased intakes of antioxidant pigments from plants may lower the risk of hip fracture in older men and women, according to a 17-year study from the US.

Of the individual carotenoids studied, lycopene was found to have the greatest protective effect, while beta-carotene had a weak association with fewer hip fractures, according to data published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research​.

Researchers from Tufts University, Hebrew SeniorLife, and Boston University, studied data from 370 Caucasian men and 576 Caucasian women with an average age of 75 participating in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. The participants were followed for 17 years.

“We found protective associations of total carotenoid and lycopene intake with hip fracture and non-vertebral osteoporotic fracture over 17-years of follow-up,”​ wrote the authors, led by Katherine Tucker. “We found that those consuming greater than 4.4 servings/week of lycopene had significantly fewer fractures.”

The study supports similar findings from the same researchers published in January in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ (Vol. 89, pp. 416-424).

Bone health is becoming a major segment of the supplements and functional foods market, as ageing populations and the additional strain from obesity swell the numbers affected by osteoporosis. Already the lifetime risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is 30-40 per cent and in men the risk is about 13 per cent.

Study details

Tucker and her co-workers measured the intakes of total and individual carotenoids, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and lutein plus zeaxanthin. Intakes were assessed using a 126-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).

Over the course of 17 years of follow-up, the researchers documented 100 hip fractures. The highest average intake of all carotenoids was associated with a significantly lower risk of hip fracture, said the researchers.

The researchers then looked individual carotenoids and found that higher lycopene intake was associated with a lower risk of hip fracture, and non-vertebral fracture. Furthermore, a weak but statistically un-significant protective trend was recorded total beta-carotene, but only for hip fractures.

No protective effects were observed for the other carotenoids, said the researchers.

“These results suggest a protective role of several carotenoids for bone health in older adults,”​ concluded the researchers.


The earlier paper by the same researchers contained the proposal that carotenoids may play a protective role in skeletal health via their antioxidant activity. Previous reports have suggested that oxidative stress may increase bone resorption. Other mechanisms may also be responsible for these effects, they added.

Industrial welcome

The results were welcomed by Zohar Nir PhD, VP new product development & scientific affairs for LycoRed.

“Osteoporosis is a major public health concern in an aging population, and research pointing to dietary measures like natural lycopene that can be taken to keep bones strong, is very good news,”​ said Dr Nir.

Source: Journal of Bone and Mineral Research​Published online ahead of print 12 January 2009, doi: 10.1359/jbmr.090102“Protective Effect of Total Carotenoid and Lycopene Intake on the Risk of Hip Fracture: A 17-Year Follow-Up From the Framingham Osteoporosis Study”​ Authors: S. Sahni, M.T. Hannan, J. Blumberg, L.A. Cupples, D.P. Kiel, K.L. Tucker

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