Know your onions!

Published: Saturday 15 July 2000

An onion a day could help keep osteoporosis (inflammation of bone and cartilage) at bay, claims a new study. When male rats were fed one gramme of dry onion per day, bone resorption -- the process in which calcium is released from bone stores, thereby weakening the bones -- was inhibited by 20 per cent. That was slightly higher than the effect of calcitonin at doses used to treat osteoporosis in women past menopause. Because osteoporosis occurs most frequently in post-menopausal women, the researchers performed the same experiments on rats with their ovaries removed.

In these rats, bone resorption was 32 per cent higher than the normal rat but also was inhibited by onion intake. In addition to a moderate intake of dairy products or a calcium supplement, the diet should include a good mix of vegetables, especially onions. Once the effects have been confirmed in humans, it will be possible to slow down bone loss and, ultimately, reduce the incidence of osteoporosis, say the researchers (Nature, Vol 401, No 6751).

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