Osteoporosis, a debilitating condition caused by the loss of bone mineral, makes the bone susceptible to fracture, especially at the hip, wrist and spine. It is most common in menopausal women as the decline in oestrogen levels leads to an increase in the normal rat of mineral loss from bone.
You can help prevent osteoporosis eating a varied diet rich in vitamins and minerals, by consuming less caffeine and alcohol and by exercising.
- Are you at risk?
Height and weight…….
Statistics show that tall women are more likely to develop osteoporosis. If you’re tall, pay extra attention to the things you can do to minimise your risk of developing osteoporosis.
If you are too thin, you could run and increased risk of developing osteoporosis. An overactive thyroid gland could be causing your lack of bodyweight. In addition, you don’t have sufficient adipose (fat) you will be less likely to produce oestrogen from this source.
Carrying a slight amount excess weight can actually push calcium into your bones. It is not helpful to be considerably overweight, however, as excess weight will put great pressure on your bones. If you do decide to lose weight, be careful. Research suggests that after the menopause it is better to stay the weigh you are that to go on a sudden weight-loss programme and lose more than 10 per cent of your body weight, which can double you risk of getting osteoporosis
Lack of exercise is a significant risk factor in the development of osteoporosis. If you sit and do nothing, calcium tends to leave your bones; if you run, calcium tends to enter your bones. The critical factor is that exercise should be more weight-bearing, such as walking, running or push-ups. The more you use your bones to make demands on them, the stronger they become. It is a great way to energise you body and becoming fitter and stronger all over.
- Diet – what your bones need
This mineral is a major component of the structure of bones. You lose some calcium everyday, mainly in your urine, and it is vital that this is replaced. A daily dose of 1,000 mg is recommended, with an increase to 1,500 mg close to and thereafter the menopause. Make sure you diet supplies a large amount of calcium. You can also help this by making some positive changes and consider taking a calcium supplement, if necessary.
Calcium’s ‘partner’ in bones is phosphorus. The ideal would provide them in equal amounts, but the Western diet unusually contains an excess of phosphorus. A high phosphorus intake can remove calcium from bones and can also lead to reduced vitamin D activity and hence the absorption of calcium from the digestive system.
Meat, grains and protein-rich foods in general are rich in phosphorus, so reduce your intake of these foods to the minimum that will provide adequate protein. Most fruits and vegetables have a good balance of calcium and phosphorus. Avoid carbonated drinks.
About 70 per cent of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones, where it replaces some of the calcium and has an important influence on bone structure. People with osteoporosis often have a deficiency of magnesium. Many medications prescribed for osteoporosis contains calcium and vitamin D but little or no magnesium, even though some people may need it more urgently that calcium.
Other essential minerals
In addition to those listed above, make sure that you are supplying your body with adequate levels of manganese, zinc, copper, silica and boron.
Also known as retinol, vitamin A stimulates the production of progesterone, thought to be more useful than oestrogen in the prevention of osteoporosis. It is found in eggs and meat, especially liver. Carotenes, the precursors of vitamin A, are available from orange, red or green plant foods, such as carrots, beetroot, and leafy green vegetables.
- Vitamins B6 and B12 and Folic Acid
These B vitamins help minimise levels of homocysteine. The effect can be enhanced by taking a supplements by taking a supplement with as much as 5 mg folic acid (ask PAUL C if this is still ok to rec). This is a safe dose, but it should be always taken in combination with vitamin B12.
Vitamin C is essential for healthy collagen and increases the production of progesterone. It is usually found in combination with other bioflavonoid in foods such as oranges, strawberries, tomatoes and green vegetables. If choosing a supplement, look for one that contains vitamin C in calcium form (calcium ascorbate) in combination with bioflavonoids.
By promoting calcium absorption from the intestinal tract vitamin D helps to maintain normal levels of blood calcium. An adequate intake of vitamin D will, for most people, make a big difference to calcium levels.
The vitamin encourages calcium deposition in the bones. Many post-menopausal women stop calcium in urine whey they take vitamin K. Leafy vegetables are the richest sources. Because it is fat soluble, vitamin K should be eaten or taken with some form of fat. Another form, vitamin K2, is produced by bacteria and other microrganisms in the digestive tract. For most healthy people, this is a major source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is not stored in the body, and so is less likely to be toxic in high doses. A recommended does in 10 mg a day, but up to 50 mg has been used without any adverse effects.
- Other risk factors to consider
- excess alcohol
- excess caffeine
- carbonated drinks
- excess salt
- Prescription medication, such as sleeping pills and steroids. They are particularly harmful and can have an adverse effect on the bones. If you are taking these, speak to your doctor or a qualified practitioner about supplements you can take for bone support or natural alternatives to help reduce the medication. Look into natural alternatives to sleeping pills or steroids.
Hints for health
Eat a varied diet throughout your life as osteoporosis can start before the menopause. For strong bones, make sure your diet is especially rich in vitamins D and K, calcium and magnesium.
Recipe for strong bones
Fruit and nut crumble.
Preparation time 15 minutes plus soaking time
Cooking time 35-40 minutes
This can be enjoyed for an energising and wholesome breakfast, after dinner for a healthy desert or delicious midday snack.
Dried fruit such as apricots and prunes add to the iron content of the diet. Absorption of iron is by vitamin C, but inhibited by a number of factors including drinking tea. This delicious recipe contains natural foods that provide essential minerals for bone support.
- 6 oz dried apricots
- 4 oz dried pitted prunes
- 4 oz dried figs
- 2 0z dried apples
- 1 pint of apple juice
- 3 ½ oz of wholewheat /rye/spelt flour
- 2 oz margarine
- 2 oz brown unrefined sugar sifted (you can find this at local health food store)
- 2 oz hazelnuts chopped
- To serve and garnish
- Low fat yogurt – natural or soya
- Rosemary springs
- Place the dried fruits in a bowl with the apple juice and leave overnight to soak. Transfer to a saucepan and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until softened. Turn into an ovenproof dish.
- Sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the sugar, reserving a little to serve, and the hazelnuts, then sprinkle the crumble over the fruit (sugar does not need to be added to this recipe if you are trying to avoid)
- Bake in a preheated oven at 200oC (400oF), Gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes.
- Serve with a low fat yogurt, if you liked, sprinkled with the reserved sugar and garnish with rosemary.