A glass of red wine, a handful of peanuts or a bite of chocolate could protect against osteoporosis, scientists have revealed.
Resveratrol, a natural compound found in red wine and grapes, mulberries, cocao powder and peanuts, has anti- inflammatory properties which protect against bone loss in mice and rats.
Now researchers say a study has shown the compound also has the potential to help treat the condition in humans.
Osteoporosis – often referred to as “fragile bone disease” – is a long-term musculoskeletal condition which causes bones to lose strength and can lead to painful, disabling fractures. Almost 3 million people in the UK have the condition, including around 250,000 in Scotland.
Danish researchers have shown the plant compound, a type of natural phenol, increases spinal-bone density in men with metabolic syndrome, which has been linked to low-grade inflammation that can cause bone loss.
Dr Marie Juul Ørnstrup, of Aarhus University Hospital, said the research raised the possibility of wider clinical use. She said: “Our study is the first to reveal resveratrol’s potential as an anti-osteoporosis drug in humans.
“Our findings suggest the compound stimulates bone-forming cells within the body.”
The study, published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, assessed bone-mineral density and signs of bone formation in 66 middle-aged men with metabolic syndrome.
Over 16 weeks the men took either a 500mg dose of resveratrol, a 75mg dose of the compound or a placebo twice a day. Men who took the higher dose of resveratrol had a 2.6 per cent increase in lumbar spine-bone mineral density compared to men who had taken the placebo.
Dr Ørnstrup said: “In just four months on high-dose resveratrol, we saw significant improvements in bone-mineral density at the spine.
“These are encouraging results. Additional research is needed to assess whether these bone-protective effects occur in populations at risk of osteoporosis during the course of long-term treatment.”
Red wine contains between 0.2 and 5.8mg/l depending on the grape variety while chocolate contains 0.35 to 1.85mg/kg. Resveratrol is also sold as a supplement in some health shops.
Julia Thomson, a nurse at the National Osteoporosis Society, said: “We welcome any research which is going to add to the range of treatment options available to people living with osteoporosis, to reduce the risk of devastating fractures.
“Osteoporosis is often thought to be a condition which just affects women. However, one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone mainly as a result of poor bone health.
“We look forward to the results of this exciting research, although more work is needed to confirm the findings.”