Onion consumption daily can help improve overall bone density

May 9, 2023

Eating onions can have a beneficial effect on bone density in perimenopausal and postmenopausal non-Hispanic older white women. Those that consume onions most frequently may decrease their risk of hip fracture by more than 20% versus those who never consume onions.

For years, calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and exercise have been recommended for reducing bone loss, however studies have indicated only marginal improvement. Laboratory experiments have indicated a possible role for plant-derived phytochemicals in bone remodelling – specifically the role they play in increasing the rate of bone deposition by osteoblasts and decreasing the rate of bone breakdown by osteoclasts. At least three of these compounds have been isolated from onions – quercetin, kaempferol and F-L-glutamyl-trans-S-1-propenyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide.

The researchers performed an analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2004. The bone density analysis was limited to perimenopausal and postmenopausal non-Hispanic white female participants who were 50 years or older, because bone mineral density declines after age 50 years, and white women have a higher hip fracture risk than African Americans, Hispanics, or Asian/Pacific Islanders.

The 507 study participants were asked about frequency of onion consumption and were grouped according to how frequently they consumed onions as follows: less than or equal to once a month, twice a month to twice a week, three to six times a week, and once a day or more.

The study found that bone density increased as the frequency of onion consumption increased, and individuals who consumed onions once a day or more had an overall bone density that was 5% greater than individuals who consumed onions once a month or less.

The researchers concluded that consumption of onion or onion extract may be a useful addition to other treatment modalities for the prevention of osteoporosis. It is recommended that future research should focus special attention on the association between onion consumption and fracture risk in the hip and lumbar spine.

Practice Tips

  • Recommend daily onion consumption to support bone health in adults
  • Onions are a prebiotic (foods that act as a fertiliser for the ‘good’ gut bacteria)
  • It’s important to remember to eat a wide variety of plants in your everyday diet as this helps increase the diversity (aim for 30 types of different plant foods every week)
  • Why not try adding red, white, brown or pink onions to your meals and snacks


Matheson EM, Mainous AG 3rd, Carnemolla MA. The association between onion consumption and bone density in perimenopausal and postmenopausal non-Hispanic white women 50 years and older. Menopause. 2009 Jul-Aug;16(4):756-9. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31819581a5. PMID: 19240657.

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