Americans missing out on phytonutrients associated with bone health

May 6, 2010 in Medicine & Health / Health

Americans who fall short in meeting their daily fruit and vegetable intakes based on government guidelines are also likely to fall short in common bone-building nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, according to a newly released report by the Nutrilite Health Institute called America's Phytonutrient Report: Bone Health by Color. "It's like a double impact - if you fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables, you are also likely not getting enough bone-building nutrients like calcium and vitamin D from all food sources in your total diet either," said Keith Randolph, Ph.D., Technology Strategist for Nutrilite.

The new report also highlights the limited variety of fruits and vegetables people eat. "Even if they're consuming the recommended five to 13 servings a day, they're probably just eating a greater volume of a narrow assortment of fruits and vegetables," Dr. Randolph said. "This research highlights the importance of not only the quantity, but the variety of the fruits and vegetables. Everyone can benefit by eating fruits and vegetables that span a broad color spectrum," he added.

Phytonutrients, Foods & Bone Health

Along with vitamins, minerals and fiber, fruits and vegetables contain plant-based compounds known as phytonutrients that research suggests provide a range of potential health benefits, including . America's Phytonutrient Report: Bone Health by Color focused on four color categories of phytonutrients. The research highlighted the key food sources that provide phytonutrients in these color categories.

Additional Key Findings

Using NHANES and USDA data that show what Americans eat, America's Phytonutrient Report: Bone Health by Color also concluded the following:

Depending upon age, for adults, calcium intakes should be between 1000-1200 mg/day and vitamin D should be between 200-600 IU/day, with some scientists looking at the benefits of even higher vitamin D intakes. Therefore, these new research findings, though not designed to test phytonutrient intake and bone health outcomes, suggest that Americans who fall short in fruit and vegetable consumption and have a "phytonutrient gap," also are more likely to fall short in calcium and vitamin D.

An estimated 10 million Americans over age 50 have osteoporosis or "thinning of the bones," while another 34 million Americans are at risk. Subsequently, it's important to make bone health a life-long commitment to defend against thinning bones and avoid premature bone loss. While nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D are critical to bone health, emerging research suggests that phytonutrients - the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables - may offer specific benefits to bone health and are an important part of the daily diet as well.

Closing the "Phytonutrient Gap"

An earlier study, America's Phytonutrient Report: Quantifying the Gap, showed that, on average, eight out of 10 Americans have a "phytonutrient gap" - that is, they fall short in consuming key phytonutrients from foods that could benefit their health, including bone health.

"The original report demonstrated that we have a 'phytonutrient gap' among Americans, and this new report shows how the 'phytonutrient gap' tracks with shortfalls of calcium and vitamin D," said Dr. Randolph. "In light of emerging research showing phytonutrients like lycopene and beta-carotene can benefit bone, this new finding that low fruit and vegetable consumers also have low intakes of calcium and vitamin D is concerning."

To see whether they have a "phytonutrient gap," consumers can check out the Phytonutrient Spectrum and their Daily Phytonutrient Snapshot at The Phytonutrient Spectrum brings to life the colors, health benefits and fruits and vegetables associated with select phytonutrients, and the Daily Phytonutrient Snapshot helps consumers determine which fruits and vegetables they need to eat more of to help close their individual "phytonutrient gap."

"Bone is an active tissue in the body, and fortunately just like other muscles and tissues, there are ways adults of all ages can protect and keep their bones healthy," says Amy Hendel, Nutrilite's Phytonutrient Coach. "In addition to regular physical activity and consuming foods high in calcium and vitamin D like dairy products, it turns out eating enough fruits and vegetables to boost phytonutrient consumption may be quite important."

To help close the "phytonutrient gap" and promote better bone health, Hendel, a registered physician assistant and health/wellness expert, offers the following tips for people at any age:

More information: For more information about the health benefits of phytonutrients, both reports, and more practical tips visit

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"Americans missing out on phytonutrients associated with bone health" May 6, 2010