Stronger bones.This used to be the last supposed advantage of being overweight — which otherwise raises the risk of all manner of ailments, from diabetes to cancer to cardiovascular disease.But alas, emerging research shows that fat — far from being a guarantor of sturdier bones — actually undermines them. The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association, showed that among post-menopausal women, higher fat mass also meant lower bone mineral densities.

But hold on…if weight-bearing exercise increases bone density, why wouldn’t lugging around 50 extra pounds of fat have the same effect? Because adipose tissue is an active organ which produces toxic substances that impair the ability to maintain strong bones. Excess fat induces an inflammatory response that inhibits bone building and multiplies “osteoclasts” (cells which break down bones). By contrast, packing extra muscle (vs.fat) strengthens bones.

Fortunately, eating more fruit and vegetables and increasing activity can protect your bones in more ways than one! Studies have linked produce intake with higher bone mineral density. Superfoods for the Bones — like leafy greens and broccoli — supply a combination of bone-building nutrients. Fruit and veggies also help you shed that bone-harmful fat by filling you up and providing the nutrients you need to feel satisfied. Specifically incorporate more bananas and berries, both of which boost fat burning. Exercise builds bones while suppressing appetite.

Bonus: Onions, leeks, asparagus and artichokes all contain inulin, the prebiotic fiber which enhances calcium absorption.

Published January 1, 2009