Drink Beer, Build Strong Bones

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Beer drinkers, take note: results of a new study suggest that beer can help build strong bones because it is a significant source of dietary silicon. The trace mineral silicon may play an important role in the growth and development of bone, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A previous study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, noted that higher intake of dietary silicon in men and younger women appeared to have a positive impact on bone health, especially cortical bone health. In another study, researchers identified beer, bananas, and string beans as the main sources of dietary silicon among men and women.

In this new study, researchers from the Department of Food Science & Technology at the University of California, Davis, evaluated commercial beer production to identify the relationship between how beer is produced and its silicon content. Silicon appears in beer as orthosilicic acid, which is highly available to the body (bioavailability). The National Institutes of Health notes that dietary silicon may play an important role in the growth and development of bone and connective tissue. It has even been proposed that moderate consumption of beer may help fight osteoporosis.

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The researchers analyzed 100 commercial beers for their silicon content and found that the average silicon content ranged from 6.4 to 56.6 milligrams per liter. Beers that contained high amounts of malted barley and hops had the highest levels of silicon. Most of the silicon in barley is found in the husk, which is not greatly affected during malting. Hops also contain silicon, but much smaller quantities are used compared with barley. Wheat-based beers, nonalcoholic beers, and light lagers had the least amount of the mineral.

While silicon is a factor in bone health, other minerals are necessary as well, including calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, sulfur, chromium, and boron. Vitamin D is needed for bones to absorb these minerals.

The results of this study are an interesting reminder that silicon is important for bone health, and that moderate, responsible consumption of beer, if one is already a beer drinker, contributes the necessary mineral to the diet. Other food sources of silicon include beets, bell peppers, brown rice, soybeans, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.

SOURCES:
Casey TR and Bamforth CW. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 2010 Feb. 8 online
Jugdaohsing R et al. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 2004 Feb; 19(2): 297-307
Jugdaohsingh R et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002 May; 75(5): 887-93

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