How Corn Can Help Build Strong Bones
What is soluble corn fiber?
Soluble corn fiber is a nondigestible carbohydrate derived from corn that can be used in a wide variety of food and beverage products. Soluble fibers are known for their ability to attract water and transform into gel during the digestive process, which in turn slows down digestion.
Food manufacturers use soluble corn fiber in baked products, dairy foods, frozen foods, cereals, candies, flavored water, and carbonated drinks. The fiber can be used in products to lower the sugar content while also providing dietary fiber.
Previous research has indicated that soluble corn fiber has prebiotic abilities (nourishes beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome) and can boost calcium absorption. It also has been shown to assist with blood sugar control.
Studies of corn and strong bones
The researchers, under direction of Connie Weaver, distinguished professor and head of nutrition science, set out to determine how soluble corn fiber impacts calcium absorption, bone factors, and the gut microbiome among adolescents and postmenopausal women. Two separate studies were conducted.
In the adolescent group, 28 girls (ages 11-14) consumed 0 grams, 10 grams, or 20 grams of soluble corn fiber daily for four weeks while not changing their diet. Calcium absorption increased by about 12 percent in both supplement groups, which would equal a 1.8 percent boost in bone building per year.
Fourteen healthy postmenopausal women consumed 0 grams, 10 grams, or 20 grams of soluble corn fiber daily for 50 days. At the end of the study period, bone calcium retention had improved by 4.8 percent and 7 percent, respectively, in the women taking 10 grams and 20 grams.
This is important because, according to Weaver, over a year’s time this improvement would “equal and counter the average rate of bone loss in a post-menopausal woman” and thus help ward off osteoporosis. In both studies, the 10-gram and 20-gram amounts are those that could be found in supplement form.
What these studies mean
Weaver noted that these two studies were the first ones to demonstrate that consuming this type of fiber “can alter the gut microbiome in ways that can enhance health. We found this prebiotic can help healthy people use minerals better to support bone health.”
Calcium alone doesn’t boost the formation of bone, but soluble corn fiber does, as well as enhance the absorption of calcium. That combination is definitely good news for adolescent girls and postmenopausal women. Weaver and her team plan further studies of soluble corn fiber and bone health.
Note: Since the vast majority of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, chances are that any soluble fiber corn supplement, as is the corn fiber used in food products, will be made from GMO corn unless specified otherwise.
Purdue University release 22 August 2016
Weaver CM et al. Soluble corn fiber increases bone calcium retention in postmenopausal women in a dose-dependent manner: a randomized crossover trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016 Sept 6; 104(3): 837-43
Weaver CM et al. Soluble corn fiber increases calcium absorption associated with shifts in the gut microbiome: A randomized dose-response trial in free-living pubertal females. Journal of Nutrition 2016 July 1; 146(7): 1298-1306
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