This week I’ve got some surprisingly good news for anyone suffering from osteoporosis. Turns out one of my favorite condiments may help prevent bone loss.

That’s great news for Sally Field, who I warned back in December to think twice about helping to promote Boniva. Drugs like Boniva and Fosamax (they belong to a class of drugs called bisphosphonates) may actually weaken bones and slow their ability to heal.

There’s no question that osteoporosis is a real problem for lots of men and women. In fact, one in two women (one in eight men) have a lifetime risk of developing a fracture from osteoporosis. In the U.S. alone, osteoporosis causes a fracture every 20 seconds.

So what’s a girl to do?
I urge Sally and anyone at risk to go all natural: get more exercise, spend time in the sun, and make sure to supplement with calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, other minerals, possibly digestive enzymes and natural (bioidentical) hormones.

But now—according to a study out in this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—there’s another cheap and easy way to help fight bone loss.

Ketchup for your bones?
That’s right. New research suggests that lycopene—the powerful antioxidant found in good ole ketchup—may help protect men and women against losses in bone mineral density (BMD). ,

Lycopene is an antioxidant carotenoid that gives tomatoes, watermelons, and pink grapefruit their red color. Numerous studies over the years (all denied, of course, by the FDA) have suggested that lycopene protects you against prostate cancer, breast cancer, and heart disease. But protect against bone loss? Now—that’s real news.

Researchers from Tufts University, Boston University, and SeniorLife Hebrew studied data collected from 334 men and 540 women over the age of 75 who suffered from osteoporosis.

They assessed the participants’ dietary intake of carotenoids, (including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and lutein plus zeaxanthin) over a four-year period. They analyzed this data in conjunction with the participants‘ BMD at the hip, spine, and radial shaft.

The data showed that increased intake of carotenoids, Lycopene in particular, showed “significant” protection against BMD loss at the lumbar spine in women and significant protection at the hip in men.

New thought on bone loss
This exciting new research proves that antioxidants may play a vital role in preventing and treating osteoporosis in the future.

Here’s why…

Most of us think of bones as static structures. But they’re not. They’re actually in constant flux, getting broken down and then built anew.

Cells called osteoblasts build bone. Cells called osteoclasts break down old bone. But when free radicals roam unchecked in your body, this process goes haywire. Osteoclasts over-multiply and cause your bones to continually break down.

The best way to control free radicals is to get plenty of antioxidants in your diet. And the researchers from this study take this logic one step further. They theorize that if you can reduce the free radicals in the body, you reduce the osteoclasts too. As a result, you control the unchecked bone loss.

Fruits and vegetables contain loads of carotenoids
This is why some people who eat high amounts of fruits and veggies seem to reduce their risk of bone loss. These foods are naturally high in antioxidants.

According to lead researcher Katherine Tucker, "These results suggest a possible protective effect of carotenoids, particularly of lycopene, against bone loss in older adults. It is therefore possible that carotenoids explain part of the previously observed protective effects of fruit and vegetable intake on BMD."

Some tips to get more lycopene in your diet
Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, and red bell peppers are all good sources of lycopene. Some research suggests that lycopene becomes more bioavailable after heating. So here’s all the more reason to make your own tomato sauce (with organic tomatoes and whole grain noodles, of course).

Here are some other simple tips for getting more lycopene in your diet:

  • Use ketchup or salsa as a condiment whenever possible
  • Enjoy caprese salad (mozzarella, tomato & basil) in the summertime
  • Always add tomatoes to sandwiches and side salads
  • Go for a grapefruit in the mornings
  • Add salsa and red pepper to omelets
  • Dip morning eggs in ketchup
  • Add salsa on top of broiled salmon
  • Drink V-8 as an afternoon snack
  • Add salsa to guacamole
New tools to fight osteoporosis without drugs

More research into this lycopene theory is definitely warranted (as always, I’ll be sure to keep you updated). But this study is a step in the right direction. Anything that helps you avoid resorting to drugs like Boniva and Fosamax is a winner in my book.