Prevention of low bone mass is important to reducing the incidence of osteoporotic fractures. This paper shows that, in rats, bone mass can be increased by feeding habits per se. Using six-hourly urinary excretion of [3H]tetracycline from prelabeled rats to monitor bone resorption, we previously found a peak of bone resorption following food administration. We now demonstrate that dividing the solid and liquid intake into portions blunts this peak and leads to a decrease in 24-h bone resorption to the level observed in thyroparathyroidectomized animals. Calcium balance increases and, when such feeding schedules are imposed for 30 d, bone mass increases. Dividing the intake is not effective in thyroparathyroidectomized animals, indicating the importance of PTH and/or calcitonin. Administration of calcitonin inhibits practically only the peak of bone resorption, suggesting that it is osteoclast mediated. In contrast, treatment with a bisphosphonate reduces basal bone resorption without a specific effect on the peak, indicating a fundamentally different mechanism of action. This is also supported by the finding that their combined effects are additive. Whether bone mass in humans is also under the control of dietary habits is not known. If so, an increased meal frequency may be used to prevent osteoporosis.
R C Mühlbauer, H Fleisch