Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a xanthine-containing beverage, which is also rich in caffeine. Because caffeine has a negative impact on bone mineral density (BMD) mainly associated with low calcium (Ca) diets, there would be expected a negative effect of yerba mate on bone. In this study, Sprague-Dawley rats were used and randomly assigned into four groups (n = 6/group): Control + Ca 0.2 g %; Control + Ca 0.9 g %; Yerba + Ca 0.2 g %; Yerba + Ca 0.9 g %. At the end of the experiment, tibias and femurs were obtained for BMD, morphometric, histomorphometric, and biomechanical analyses. While there was no difference in bone parameters between rats with and without yerba mate consumption, a negative effect of low Ca diet was observed in BMD, morphometric, histomorphometric, and biomechanical results. Interaction between Ca content in the diet and yerba mate was only found in trabecular bone volume, which would indicate that the negative effect of low Ca intake on bone volume is reversed in part by yerba mate infusion. However, yerba mate was not able to reverse the negative effect of low Ca content on biomechanical properties and trabecular connectivity. In summary, at least in our study, yerba mate would not have a negative effect on bone and would be safe for the bone health of consumers.
Keywords: Bone; Ilex paraguariensis; Yerba mate.