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Bugs’n’Bones study hopes to aid ageing population

Bugs’n’Bones study hopes to aid ageing population

As the world grapples with an ever-growing ageing population, it is estimated that one in three women over the age of 50 will experience bone fractures due to osteoporosis, a disease which causes low bone mass.

Ten years ago, there were an estimated 84,000 osteoporotic fractures in New Zealand annually, with 60 per cent occurring in women. Hip fractures accounted for five per cent of all fractures. These numbers are expected to rise by 30 per cent by 2020.

Osteoporotic fractures can be moderated by diet and exercise as these in turn affect bone health. But could the composition of the gut bacteria community also contribute to these fractures?

Now a group of researchers from Massey University’s School of Food and Nutrition is investigating other modifiable factors that could prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis. Lead researcher Professor Marlena Kruger says nutrient-poor diets may adversely affect the bone health. “For example, a high fat diet may lead to poor bone health while a diet with adequate protein and calcium may support good bone health.

“This project takes a wider approach to establishing which foods, not just nutrients, can modify risk for poor bone health. Calcium absorption is affected by the composition of the gut bacteria which is again affected by diet. This study will establish the links between the gut, bone density and habitual diet by using novel methodologies and biomarkers,” Professor Kruger says.

Researchers would like to hear from women from the wider Manawatū area, aged 55-70 years, who are five years past menopause.

The project will involve two phases, featuring bone and heel scans, blood, urine and stool collection, as well as measurements and questionnaires.

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