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Nutrition for Bone Health

by Christina Wilson October 20, 2022

Nutrition for Bone Health

You can dress up as a skeleton for Halloween, but make it a strong one! 

Nutrition for optimal bone health includes protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K, combined with weight-bearing (walking) and resistance (lifting weights); exercise will help keep your bones healthy. 

Women, listen up. Estrogen decline due to peri and post-menopause significantly speeds up bone loss and increases the risk of osteoporosis. Research indicates that 20% of bone loss happens during these stages, and approximately 1 in 10 women over 60 are affected by osteoporosis. Whether you already have osteoporosis or want to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, the following dietary tips are proven helpful and can promote reversal. 

Exercise 

Loss of muscle (sarcopenia) and bone mass  (osteoporosis) accompany aging. Physical activity and exercise represent effective preventive and therapeutic strategies able to slow down sarcopenia progression and prevent/delay the onset of and treat osteoporosis. Exercise is generally regarded as the primary non-pharmacological treatment for the prevention of osteoporosis and fall-related fractures.

Protein

We know that adequate dietary protein intake is essential to provide amino acids for building and maintaining bone tissue. It also has anabolic effects on bone by stimulating the release of IGF-1 and calcium absorption from the gut, which helps with the prevention of bone loss and slowing down osteoporosis. Current research shows that higher protein intake benefits adult bone health. A review published in Osteoporosis International found that a protein-rich diet, provided there is adequate calcium intake, is, in fact, beneficial for adult bone health. What’s more, diets containing a greater percentage of calories from protein may help preserve bone mass during weight loss.

Calcium & The Gang

The RDI for calcium is 1,000 mg per day for most people, although teens need 1,300 mg and older women require 1,200 mg. A woman’s calcium needs increase with age due to hormonal changes during menopause that can affect bone health. Depending on your diet and needs, you might need to supplement your diet with a well-absorbed form of calcium, such as calcium citrate or calcium malate.

Calcium is typically the poster child for bone health, and while it certainly does play an important role, research suggests its benefits are magnified when it’s paired with other nutrients.  For example, vitamin D facilitates calcium’s absorption into the body. Although during certain times of the year and under the right conditions, you can get plenty of vitamin D from the sun, the ability to synthesize vitamin D in your skin from sun exposure decreases as you age – by as much as 75 percent. Magnesium ensures your body will make the most of both calcium and vitamin D. In a report in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, a study found that vitamin D isn’t metabolized efficiently without an adequate level of magnesium.  And don’t forget vitamin K – a bone support nutrient that is often talked about less than calcium or vitamin D but is just as important. Like magnesium, vitamin K helps direct calcium to the bones and out of the soft tissues.

What to Eat

If you don't do dairy, green leafy vegetables and small fish like sardines and canned salmon with bones are great nondairy sources of calcium. 

Foods that naturally contain good amounts of vitamin D include fatty fish, beef liver, eggs, and certain mushrooms.

Magnesium is found in a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and several fruits and vegetables, including avocado. 

Good dietary sources of vitamin K include green leafy vegetables, butter, meat, eggs, and fermented vegetables and beans like sauerkraut, miso, and natto. 

What to reduce/eliminate

Excessive sugar consumption leads to fast calcium depletion from the body through urine, as studies show.  Also, acidifying feature of sugar leads to an increase in calcium excretion, robbing our bones of their density. Additionally, this study published in The Clinical Biochemist Reviews states refined sugar may reduce magnesium content by almost 85%That’s a good reason to restrain from sneaking candy from your kids trick or treating haul. 

 

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Christina Wilson
Christina Wilson

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