Substance in Tequila May Help Prevent Osteoporosis
The agave plant is a succulent with narrow, spiny leaves that plays a starring role in the making of tequila.
It’s also used to make a syrupy sweetener, and now this plant, which is native to the Southern US and tropical America, is showing promise as a bone builder that can help combat osteoporosis.
Drink to Your Bone Health
More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. People who have the bone-thinning disease are much more likely to break a bone if they fall. Also, many osteoporosis fractures, about 300,000 each year, are hip fractures, which are especially debilitating and dangerous. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the top cause of fatal injury and the most frequent cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital visits among older adults. In light of that, it’s no wonder companies selling medical alert devices do such brisk business.
The current recommendation for preventing and managing osteoporosis is to exercise regularly and consume adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. The new study by Mexican scientists shows that the same agave plant used in tequila may hold substances that can measurably improve the absorption of calcium and magnesium, essential minerals for maintaining bone health.
The substance in the blue agave plant that was investigated in the study was fructan: a kind of fruit molecule that’s found in foods such as agave, asparagas and onions. The fructans from the blue agave plant were administered to mice with osteoporosis as well as to mice without the disease. They found that the mice who consume the fructans had 50 percent more osteocalcin, which is a protein that signals the production of new bone.
The fructans-consuming mice also showed a greater diameter in bone measurements compared to mice that didn’t receive the fructans. Benefits were seen in the bones of both healthy mice and mice with osteoporosis.
Agave Works Together with the Microbiome
For the agave to promote the growth of new bone, it needs beneficial microbiota. Beneficial gut bacteria ferments the agave fructans and converts them into fatty acids that catch available calcium and magnesium and transport it through the cells. This helps the body to hold onto these helpful minerals longer to use them for strengthening bones.
The science of the human microbiome is considered a new frontier that we’re learning more about every day. The current recommendations for maintaining a healthy gut include consuming unprocessed foods that are low in sugar, taking probiotic supplements and eating more fermented foods like plain yogurt and sauerkraut.
Dr. Mercedes López, head of the study at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico, says she hopes to conduct clinical research to show that agave fructans can improve the effectiveness of mineral supplementation to prevent and treat osteoporosis in humans.
This study is welcome news for the more than 200 million people around the world with osteoporosis. But does it mean that we should binge drink tequila for stronger bones? The answer is no. Heavy consumption of alcohol has been linked to a seriously detrimental effect on the microbiota in the gut, which is essential for the agave to benefit bones. But if you’re planning to drink some tequila anyway, go for the kind made from 100 percent pure agave. That way you’ll stand the best chance of drinking a margarita that’ll do your bones some good.