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Osteoporosis Overview

Here we discuss nutritional strategies for combatting bone density issues (osteopenia and osteoporosis) and minimising fracture risk


Understand this Key Consideration:

Osteoporosis is not associated with insufficient dietary calcium intake and so cannot be effectivey treated by increasing calcium intake alone. Statistically there is no correlation at all between populations eating most calcium and those with least osteoporosis with some evidence showing the reverse.

Disbelieve this Main Myth:  

Myth: "It is important to consume a lot of dairy produce such as milk and cheese if you wish to avoid or contain bone density conditions." End of Myth Basically this is old advice and it is believed that consumming excess dairy may in fact worsen the problem.  Several studies in recent times have upturned the notion that dairy alone strenghtens bones and there is some evidence that diary consumption is actually correlated with increased fracture risk.  The mechanism is understood: milk products tend to raise the acidity of the body which the system must work against to maintain blood at the proper pH.  This it does by a number of means, prncipally leaching calcium from the bones.   As one pointer, last we checked the Finns have the highest rate of osteoporosis in the World and are the biggest dairy consumers of all!).  The picture is further complicated by some evidence showing that denser bones are not necessarily less prone to fracture: again, the contrary has been shown to be the case in some studies. 

General Dietary Advice

Key issues are to ensure optimum supply of vitamins and minerals associated with this disease AND ensuring the body is not struggling with excess acidity on a regular basis. As we look at below, Vitamin D in particular is absolutely crucial regarding bone health as indeed is weight bearing exercise.

The good news is that there are certain foods which can supply the right mix of vits and minerals and also combat the potential of lowered pH (acidity of the system) with no trade-offs to fret about. The main foods in this regard are green leafy vegetables, cabbages, chards, broccolis, spinach in particular etc.

As is well known, all dairy products will indeed supply calcium but fewer of the other essential vitamins found in green vegetable and can contribute to metabolic acidosis if ingested to excess. Best take some of one's total dairy in the form of yoghurt or better still, kefir as these contribute many other key benefits not found in simple milk or cheese products alone and are non-acid forming.

All oily fish contain relatively high levels of calcium (salmon, mackrel, herring, tuna to a lesser extent) but above, all sardines. (These fish also provide vitamin A and especially D, critical for bone density and of course are precisely the same foods which are the most potent sources of vital Omega 3 oils).

All beans provide a source of calcium, in particular white coloured ones. Eating seeds is generally a good idea and best for bone issues are sesame seeds and sesame seed products like tahini. Almonds are the best nuts for those with bone density issues.

The main culprits for acidifcation of the system are animal proteins, particularly meat products, and worst of all, red meats; to a lesser extent, fish, eggs, cheese followed by milk; and all sugar containing foods such as cakes, deserts, sweets and of course sugary fizzy drinks. Both caffeine and alcohol also contribute to acidifcation of the body and thus exacerbate calcium leakage from the bones.

Thus, advice is to drop back on meat consumption, particularly red meats; drop back on coffee in particular (tea is generally fine) and importantly, alcohol; eat green vegetables every day if possible, and some raw vegetables and fruit each day. Include garlic and onions in your diet and of course vegetables generally (not just green). Try to consume some quantity of white beans as a protein source (instead of meat) as well as including seeds and nuts, especially almonds and sesame seeds. Fortunately all of these measures are likely to assist with all aspects of your health.

Points to Note / Warnings?

  • Alkalinity is best promoted by green vegetables in particular, including some alkaline teas and cutting back on the main “acidifiers” noted above.
  • Drinking plenty of water is very important (ideally a quality mineral water).
  • Including an alkaline tea (see below) perhaps once a day is a good habit to establish

Sample Citations?

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 Specific Foods - to consume

  • Green leafy veg generally esp spinach; also kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage etc.;
  • Oily fish such as salmon, mackrel, herring, also tuna and especially sardines
  • Dairy generally: cow's milk, goat's milk, yoghurt, kefir, cheese; butter
  • Legumes generally especially all white beans: soy, haricots, cannellinis and chick peas.
  • Fruits of all kinds especially the most alkylizing or least acidifying (different from least acidic!): all dried fruits such as raisins but especially figs; apples; peaches; bananas (best under-ripe); melons, watermelons, grapefruits, lemons, limes avocados
  • Other important vegetables include onions, garlic and cucumbers; also turnips; most herbs, especially parsley and basil.
  • Sesame seeds in particular;
  • Oats (porridge for breakfast?)
  • Almonds; hazlenuts
  • Sea vegetables
  • Lots of water
  • Alakaline tea (something containing 1 more of dandelion, chamomile, fennel & nettle)

 Points to Note / Warnings?

  • Caffeine slightly increases excretion of calcium; high potassium intake decreases it. In general, evidence is that coffee slighly exacerabates bone density problems whereas tea, on balance of evidence, is fine in modest quantities.
  • Best not to consume whote grains and calcium together as the whole grains can interfere somewhat with optimum absorbtion of the calcium ingested alongside it. This is significant as most people automatically take milk with cereral, put cheese with bread etc. Putting it another way, do not fully rely only on calcium sources which are ingested with whole grains as there will be a loss of some of the calcium where eaten together.

 Sample Citations?

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“Near-food” supplements

“Green powders” (capsules; pills etc. made from dried wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa etc.) are excellent for all round health and for combatting acidity. Particularly useful for those with bone density concerns who are unable or unwilling to eat sufficient green veg.

Points to Note / Warnings?

  • Best buy organic green powder supplements

Sample Citations?

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Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins A, B complex especially B6, B9 & B12, C, D, E, K1, K2; Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Boron, Manganese & Strontium

Points to Note / Warnings?

  • Do not supplement with calcium alone; use an approved combination formula which must have Vitamin D at an absolute minimum but also ought ideally to contain many of the above such as folate, magnesium and boron

Sample Citations?

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Other Supplements, Nutraceuticals

Unless taking sufficient other combintation supplements, those with only slight density issues or wishing to take a preventative approach might consider using so-called tri-salts or cardia-salts which are basically tasteless white powders made from optimised combinations of calcium, magnesium and potassium carbonates. These, most importantly in this context, help to combat systemic acidosis and also assist in getting good sleep and are considered important in maintaining heart health. Thus, if insomnia and/or heart health is also a concern, these may be appropriate.

 Those having difficulty avoiding cutting back on acidifying foods and/or neglecting green vegetables may consider pH drops as a way to promote alkalinity within the body.

 There is some evidence that soy isoflavones can help, particularly for post-menopausal women where their estogren like activity can assist generally, but the balance of the evidence to date in terms of combatting bone density problems in general and per se is not that compelling. The advice would be to eat soy products by all means but perhaps only to consider supplementing with soy isoflavones if one is a menopausal or post-menopausal woman desiring the slight estrogen replacement effect of the isoflavones whatever about any assistance that might or might not occur in terms of stemming bone loss.

 L-Lysine, L-Arginine and Methylsulfonylmethane are also recommended for bone and connective tissue health. Consult your health care provider.

Points to Note / Warnings?

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Sample Citations?

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Botannicals

Alfalfa, Barley Grass, Black Cohosh, Boneset, Chamomile, Comfrey, Dandelion root, Dong Quai, Fennel, Fenugreek, Helonias, Horsetail, Lobelia, Liquorice, Meadowsweet, Mullein, Nettle, Parsely, Pimpernell, Plantain, Pook Root, Rest Harrow, Rose Hips, Shepherd's Purse, Silverweed, Toadflax, Unicorn root, Yucca.

Points to Note / Warnings?

  • Good habit to cultivate is the drinking of an alkaline tea perhaps containing nettle, fennel, dandelion and/or chamomile

Notable Citations?

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Other Recommended Wellness Considerations

  • Getting sufficient weight bearing exercise is critical to combatting bone density problems; in other words, it is not optional!
  • Getting sufficient sunlight is also vital, particularly in Winter in Nothern Lattitudes like here in dear old Ierland  ... Recall that wearing make-up or moisturisers with UVB blocks will inhibit the desired Vitamin D production so try to leave them off when you are outdoors

Points to Note / Warnings?

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Sample Citations?

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Recommended Reading

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Comments (4)

  1. admin:
    Dec 31, 2011 at 02:50 PM

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  2. conor@smarteaters.org:
    Jan 04, 2012 at 02:55 PM

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