Surprising New Research: Drinking Tea or Coffee Could Reduce Your Risk of a Hip Fracture

Hip fractures are a common and serious injury that can occur in both men and women, but they are more common and have a higher impact on the health and quality of life of older women. Hip fractures often occur as a result of falls, and women are more prone to falls due to factors such as osteoporosis, which is more common in women and can cause bones to weaken and break more easily.

According to a new study conducted by food scientists at the University of Leeds, increasing protein intake and consuming regular cups of tea or coffee may help reduce the risk of hip fractures in women.

The research found that an increase of 25g of protein per day was associated with a 14% reduction in the risk of hip fractures on average. Additionally, the study revealed that every additional cup of tea or coffee consumed was linked to a 4% decrease in the risk of suffering a hip fracture.

Writing in the journal Clinical Nutrition, the researchers noted that the protective benefits were greater for women who were underweight, with a 25g/day increase in protein reducing their risk by 45%.

The protein could come in any form: meat, dairy, or eggs; and for people on a plant-based diet, from beans, nuts, or legumes. Three to four eggs would provide around 25g of protein as would a steak or piece of salmon. 100g of tofu would provide about 17g of protein.

Just over 3% of the women in the study group experienced a hip fracture.

The investigation – Foods, nutrients, and hip fracture risk: A prospective study of middle-aged women – is based on a large observational analysis of more than 26,000 women.

As an observational study, the researchers were able to identify associations between factors in diet and health. They could not single out direct cause and effect.

James Webster, a doctoral researcher in the School of Food Science and Nutrition at Leeds who led the study, said: “Across the world, the costs to individuals and societies caused by hip fracture are enormous.

“Hip fracture can often lead to other chronic illnesses, loss of independence, and premature death. In the UK, the annual cost to the NHS is between £2 to £3 billion.

“Diet is a factor that people can modify to protect themselves by maintaining healthy bones and muscles. This study is one of the first to investigate relationships between food and nutrient intakes and the risk of hip fracture, with hip fractures accurately identified through hospital records.

“The results highlight which aspects of diet may be useful tools in reducing hip fracture risk in women, with evidence of links between higher protein, tea, and coffee intakes and a reduced risk.”

Proteins are the basic building blocks of life and are needed to keep cells, tissues, and muscles working properly as well as contribute to bone health.

The recommended protein intake in the UK is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight per day, a limit some nutritional experts believe is too low. As the study revealed, people who had a higher protein consumption had a reduction in the risk of hip fracture. However, intakes of protein that are very high – where intake is greater than 2 to 3g of protein/kg body weight/day – can have negative health effects. The study was not able to explore these very high protein intake levels.

Professor Janet Cade, who leads the Nutritional Epidemiology Group at Leeds and supervised the research, said: “In the UK most people eat an adequate amount of protein, however, certain groups, such as vegetarians or vegans need to check that their protein intakes are high enough for good health.”

Women who are underweight may be more likely to have reduced bone mineral density and muscle mass. Increasing intakes of several foods and nutrients, especially protein, may help reduce hip fracture risk more in underweight women than in healthy or overweight women by helping to establish or restore bone and muscle health. However, the researchers note that this finding needs further research to confirm this.

Tea and coffee both contain biologically active compounds called polyphenols and phytoestrogens which may help to maintain bone health.

Professor Cade added: “This is an interesting finding given that tea and coffee are the UK’s favorite drinks. We still need to know more about how these drinks could affect bone health but it might be through promoting the amount of calcium present in our bones.”

Reference: “Foods, nutrients and hip fracture risk: A prospective study of middle-aged women” by James Webster, Darren C. Greenwood and Janet E. Cade, 8 November 2022, Clinical Nutrition.
DOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2022.11.008

The data used in the study came from the UK Women’s Cohort Study, which recruited participants between 1995 and 1998. At the time they entered the study, the women ranged between 35 and 69 years of age.

At recruitment, they were asked to fill out questionnaires about their diet and lifestyle. This information was then linked with hospital records over the following two decades, which revealed how many had suffered a hip fracture or had a hip replaced.

Of the 26,318 women involved in the study, 822 cases of hip fracture were identified, that is 3.1%.

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