Guangzhou, China—Shoppers know that calcium and vitamin D support healthy bones. But does carotenoid intake play a role in bone mineral density (BMD)? Yes, according to new research from a group of Chinese investigators.

In a large study of 1,898 women and 933 men (averaging 6o years old), researchers took blood samples looking for carotenoid levels like beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, lutein, lycopene and alpha-carotene. BMD was also checked in the entire body, lumbar spine, total hip, femur neck and trochanter. Women with the highest levels of beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene and alpha-carotene in their blood also had the highest BMD. There was no correlation with zeaxanthin and lutein. The research team hypothesizes that free radicals may activate osteoclast activity.

The authors conclude, “This study provides further evidence to recommend antioxidant-rich foods as a useful tool in bone health promotion and osteoporosis prevention.”

The data were published inOsteoporosis International.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine Online, 5/12/16