Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Bone Idle
27 January 2015

Bone Idle

We would be no match for our ancient ancestors at hunting animals or collecting fruit from treetops because our bones are lighter, weaker and more prone to fracture. Recent research suggests that this isn’t due to evolution or diet but sedentary lifestyle – which means that we could develop an equally robust skeleton if we stressed our bones to the same extent. Pictured are two femurs, or thighbones, and cubes of their honeycombed centres, showing that bone density – the amount of white material – was greater in a forager of 7,000 years ago (bottom) than in a farmer of 1,000 years ago (top). The trend towards easier lifestyle has continued since then – and may have weakened our bones to a critical level, with osteoporosis now widespread in later life. This research points strongly towards lifelong exercise, rather than diet or food supplements, being the best solution.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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