Osteoporosis affects approximately 3 million people in the UK. We can start losing bone density naturally after the age of 35 so we are at increased risk of weakening bones as we grow older.
Women are especially at risk after the menopause due to reduced oestrogen levels.
Medication and supplements can be used to treat osteoporosis but there are many other things that can be done to improve bone density and prevent bone loss.
Some people are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, below are some of the conditions that can contribute to this:
Weight bearing and strengthening exercises can all help as the action of muscle on bone strengthens and stimulates bones. Physical exercise also helps strengthen bones and muscles to keep our bodies stable and reduce risk of falls and injuries. Physical activity also helps prevent weight gain and obesity and helps maintain good posture.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation and NHS recommend 700mg calcium a day and 10 mg Vitamin D daily. Vitamin D is required to absorb Calcium.
Supplements can be taken but there are also many foods including vegan alternatives which are fortified with calcium and Vit D such as fortified spreads, soya , rice and oat drinks, brown and white bread and some breakfast cereals. Calcium set tofu is a great alternative protein source for all including vegans.
*If you are considering a moving towards a more plant based diet or are already there and would like more advice on balanced nutrition, our physiotherapist Loretta is also a Plant Based Nutritional Therapist who can help you plan. visit her page for more details: https://www.thewhitchurchclinic.co.uk/other-therapies/plant-based-nutritional-therapy/
Dairy Foods - milk, yoghurt and cheese are all good sources of Calcium.
Oily Fish - Oily fish eg tinned sardines and salmon with bones are excellent sources of calcium and fish such as mackeral, salmon, tuna, sardines and pilchards are also a source of VIT D.
Vegetables – Broccoli, cabbage and okra are all good sources of Calcium and although spinach has calcium, it contains oxalate which inhibits calcium absorption.
Dried fruits & nuts - figs, apricots, prunes, raisins and nuts eg sesame seeds and tahini are another good source.
Red meat and egg yolks - good sources of vitamin D.
In the UK we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure from around late March/early April to the end of September.
The sunlight triggers the bodies own production of vitamin D, which in turn helps your body absorb calcium. This process strengthens teeth and bones, helping to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.
Things to avoid
Sodium is an essential mineral which helps to maintain fluid regulation, electrolyte balance, cellular function and blood pressure. Salty food can cause a loss of calcium leading to bone loss. The World Health Organisation recommended daily intake is 5gm salt, less than a teaspoonful in total a day. Too much salt can cause loss of calcium and therefore loss of bone so it is best to avoid processed food with high salt and to avoid adding extra salt to your meals.
There has been some research highlighting a link between too much Vit A and increased bone fractures so it is advised to avoid supplements with retinol and avoid consuming liver more than once a week.
Heavy alcohol consumption and a high calorific diet are also associated with increased bone fractures.
Sources: NHS, The National Oesteoporosis Foundation and World Health Organisation websites.