Mount Sinai Researchers Discover Possible Link between Diet and Back Injuries

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Back pain
Healthy eating could decrease risk of back injury

Mount Sinai researchers have found a possible link between a poor diet and back injuries, especially in women. The study suggests that following a specific type of diet that excludes fast foods and highly processed foods could decrease vertebral fractures and prevent bone loss as people age.

Lead researcher James Iatridis and colleagues (Leni and Peter W. May Department of Orthopaedics, Icahn School of Medicine, New York, US) examined the effect of a diet high in advanced glycation end products on the spine. This is the first time this has been investigated.

Advanced glycation end products are compounds commonly found in pasteurised, heat-processed, dried, smoked or fried foods, and have previously been linked to weight gain and diabetes.

Iatridis commented: “This is the first study to show that high-AGE [advanced glycation end product] diets can directly result in altered vertebral bone quality with inferior biomechanical properties, and with a stronger influence on females than males.”

“This study is particularly important since it focuses attention on the importance of nutrition in promoting spinal health and susceptibility to injury, expanding our thinking beyond genetics and mechanical injuries. By highlighting new ways of thinking about spine physiology, these studies can help identify innovative interventions.”

“While novel innovations in therapies will take time to develop, these studies immediately let patients and doctors know that a healthy diet is important to maintaining a healthy spine.”

Iatridis and a team of Mount Sinai investigators compared the effect of diet on male and female mice in two age groups: “young” (six months old when the study began) and “old” (18 months at the start of the study). Half of the mice were fed a diet high in AGEs while the other half had a diet lower in AGEs. The groups were analysed over the course of 18 months. The diet high in advanced glycation end products was associated with bone loss in the spine and an increased fracture risk, especially in young, female mice.

Svenja Illien-Jünger (Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics, Icahn School of Medicine, New York, US) explained, “This study could lead to future breakthroughs as we further investigate the biological and biomechanical causes for these findings. Advanced glycation end products can accumulate in spinal tissues with aging. A high-AGE [advanced glycation end product] diet and certain diseases such as diabetes can accelerate these aging conditions, resulting in chronic inflammatory conditions and tissues that fail when subject to lower forces.”

“In addition to improved diets, a better understanding of what could lead to back pain and spine disease can help clinicians and researchers develop novel treatments.”

The research findings are set to be published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research in February, but have been posted online.

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