Osteoporosis - getting to the bones of the matter

Dr Barbara Wilson
Nutritionist

Osteoporosis literally means porous bones. As we age, our bones naturally lose some of their density. But for 1 in 3 women and 1 in 12 men over the age of 50, too much bone is lost. This results in fragile bones that can break more easily, especially after a fall. Fractures happen particularly in the hip, spine and wrist. Unfortunately, recovery from fractures can be slow for older people and some older people will never regain their former mobility.

But we can all take steps to help prevent this painful disease happening to us in later life. The National Osteoporosis Society has these tips for healthy bones:

Eat a calcium-rich diet From childhood, a diet rich in calcium will help protect bone health. Up to the age of 16-18, bones grow rapidly, while in our 20’s, bone density still increases. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is therefore vital for optimal bone development. Boys need 1000mg calcium and girls need 800mg calcium everyday, while adults need 700mg calcium each day.

Calcium-rich foods include dairy products – remember, low fat dairy products contain just as much calcium as full fat versions - leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, dried fruit, especially dried apricots, tinned fish and cereal products.

Our top 5 low cal calcium providers are:

A tin of sardines on wholegrain toast – 480mg calcium, 270 cals and 12g of fat (4 Units)

An oz of low fat cheddar cheese on a wholegrain cracker – 260mg calcium, 105 cals and 5g of fat (1.5 Units)

A 200ml glass of skimmed milk – 240mg of calcium, 65 cals and 0.2g of fat (1 Unit)

A 125ml pot of low fat yoghurt – 190mg calcium, 110 cals and 1g of fat (1 Unit)

A bowl of Bran Flakes with skimmed milk – 135mg calcium, 130 cals and 0.5g of fat (1.5 Units)

Take regular, weight-bearing exercise Exercises such as walking, running, aerobics, skipping, netball and tennis all exert a loading impact, which helps maintain bone density. We should aim to exercise for at least 20 minutes, 3 times each week.

Don’t drink too much alcohol Excessive amounts of alcohol in the body can damage bones. Aim to stay within the government guidelines of 21 alcohol units per week for women and 28 units per week for men. A unit could be half a pint of beer, a glass of wine or a measure of spirits.

Don’t smoke Smoke is toxic to bones so not smoking will benefit your bones as well as your general health.

Talk to your doctor If you are at particular risk of developing osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about preventative measures. Risk factors include:

· a lack of oestrogen in women, caused by early menopause or early hysterectomy (before age 45) · missing periods for six months or more (excluding pregnancy) as a result of over-exercising or over-dieting · low levels of the male hormone testosterone in men · long-term use of high dose corticosteroids (used to treat conditions such as arthritis and asthma) · close family history of osteoporosis (mother or father) · medical conditions such as Cushing's syndrome and liver and thyroid problems · malabsorption problems (coeliac disease, Crohn's disease, gastric surgery) · long-term immobility

For more information on osteoporosis, see the National Osteoporosis Society website on www.nos.org.uk

Start a diet plan at tescodiets.com

Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.