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What Can Fatty Food Do to the Skeletal System? From the YMCA


UPDATED: Tuesday October 2, 2012 11:09 AM

The skeletal system consists of bones and joints, and functions to shape, support and protect the body and organs. It also works to produce blood cells and immune cells. Eating excess fatty food can lead to obesity and other disorders that impact the skeleton and other body systems. However, fats are an essential part of a balanced diet and needed to maintain bone health. Like other organs and systems in the body, the bones are constantly broken down and renewed. Fat is needed to transport nutrients such as vitamins A and K that are important for bone strength and flexibility.

Vitamin A:  Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays an important role in vision, immune health, reproduction, bone growth and other body processes. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin notes that this vitamin requires fats to be absorbed by the body where it is stored in the liver. Retinol is referred to as "true" vitamin A because it is more easily absorbed by the body. It is found in foods such as eggs, liver, fatty fish and fortified cereals. Beta-carotene is another nutrient that is a precursor to vitamin A and is converted to retinol in the body. It is commonly found in dark green and orange plant foods such as kale, carrots, sweet potatoes and mangoes.

Vitamin K:  The health journal "Nutrition" published a study that demonstrated that vitamin K is needed for bone health. Like vitamin A, vitamin K requires fats to be absorbed by the body and is stored in the liver. It helps to increase bone mineral density and reduces the risk of fractures in people with osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become weak and brittle. Vitamin K acts in conjunction with vitamin D, another fat-soluble vitamin that maintains bone health. For more vitamin K in your diet, eat green vegetables such as cabbage, asparagus, spring onions, cucumbers and brussels sprouts, and add spices such as paprika, chili powder and cayenne to your cooking.

Calcium:  Calcium is a key bone-building nutrient that is also important for heart and blood vessel health. This mineral is found in fatty foods such as milk and dairy products as well as broccoli, almonds and other sources. The amount of calcium you need for healthy bones depends on your age, lifestyle and other factors. Calcium works in synergy with magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K to build a healthy skeletal system. The site HelpGuide.org advises that eating excess fatty or sugary foods can deplete calcium stores and weaken the bones.

Fat:  Weight gain and obesity can lead to disorders and diseases that affect several body systems including the bones. Research published in the "Journal of Orthopedic Surgery Research" determined that obesity can affect bone metabolism by affecting the cells that break down and reform healthy bone. This can lead to porous or weakened bones and lead to bone diseases such as osteoporosis. A high-fat diet can also directly interfere with calcium absorption from the intestines and decrease the necessary amounts of this bone-building mineral in the body. Additionally, being overweight or obese can cause mechanical strain on weight-bearing joints, particularly the knees, and cause pain, stiffness and osteoarthritis.