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Nutrition to Promote Fracture Healing

So I have read a few Opinion Pieces on the Internet about food and fracture healing, one particular comment being that a tibial fracture can require “up to 6000 calories a day increase in energy intake”. That’s a shockingly large jump in energy intake requirements! Here I’m going to look at some of the science behind that number, and the nutritional changes you can make in the first few weeks of after an accident to speed healing of a fracture 

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Nutrition to Promote Fracture Healing

I’m not too keen on using the headline “6,000 calories needed for fracture healing” for two reasons. One, there is no suggestion at all where this information came from, how it was derived, or what underpinned it. A more important second issue though is speaking as a scientist, there is a lack of reference for the statement. Yes, I am that anally retentive, I have always viewed myself as a scientist who happens to have a medical degree, in which case when dealing with facts like this if it’s not referenced, IT DIDNT HAPPEN!

To that end any posts which I’ll put in the medical or sports section, if I state a “fact” such as this, I will ALWAYS state my references.

So calories and fractures, what nutrition for fractures is the best?….

After a moderate mood around the Internet, and various medical reference libraries, I haven’t been able to find anything specific to back up this claim of 6000 calories for a tibial fracture. One big issue with the tibial fracture statement is that is very vague. It’s the medical equivalent of saying a car has a fuel economy of 100mpg. Yes that is possible, but good luck getting that out of your LandRover! The point here is that specifics matter, a tibial fracture, could be a single displaced mid-shaft fracture with minimal soft tissue damage from tripping playing football, ranging all the way through to a massive tibial plateau fracture with significant tissue loss from a car accident.

Saying “tibial fracture” doesn’t really give a whole lot of information, especially with regard to your body putting things back together

The best information I have so far been able to come across is this:

  • A fracture, depending on location, produces an increased calorific expenditure between 10-20% of a person’s normal metabolic rate.
  • That energy expenditure is maximal between weeks 0-3
  • The energy expenditure from the helped fracture is expected to drop back to approximately normal 12 weeks after the original fracture.
  • This information was found by looking at the amount of ATP, basically units of energy produced by breaking down food, seen at the fracture site in an experimental animal model, and comparing that amount, with levels seen in the animals normal bone
REFERENCE
Leung, K. S., et al. 
Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, British Volume 71.4 (1989): 657-660.
http://www.bjj.boneandjoint.org.uk/content/71-B/4/657.full.pdf 

Yes the reference is almost as old as me, but that shouldn’t change the science!

Take home message:

Increase your energy intake by about 20% for the first month post fracture, and don’t return to completely normal intakes for at least 12 weeks

Using the above calculator, my BMR comes out at 1770 calories, therefore I have aimed to consume at least 2200-2500 calories on an inactive day

Next time we’ll look at what you actually should be eating – hint probably not doughnuts!

Any questions drop them below

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. Feel free to drop me a line about sports tech, medicine, or frankly anything that you want to chat about!!