Osteoporosis is a serious and debilitating condition, and it is the most prevalent bone disease in the Western world. Osteoporosis is characterized by decreased bone mass and fragile architecture of the bone, leading to increased risk for fracture, usually of the hip and vertebrae.
Myth: “I am still young, so I don’t have to worry about my bone density”
Although osteoporotic fractures do not usually occur until after the 5th decade, bone density loss occurs insidiously from age 20 onwards. Because of this, preventative measures throughout one’s life to delay bone density loss, and improve bone composition and strength is vital for healthy bones as you age.
Myth: “Dairy products are the only good source of calcium”
Although dairy products have long be touted as the best dietary sources of calcium, pasteurization of cow’s milk makes the calcium less bio-available to our bodies therefore it is not well absorbed and utilized for our bones. In addition, dairy products are often not recommended in certain patients (for example, in cases of skin conditions, allergies, asthma, digestive problems, recurrent infection, ADHD, autism). Vegans, who do not eat any dairy products, also need to find an alternative source for calcium.
Alternative sources of calcium are leafy green vegetables and seaweed.
Collard greens, spinach, swiss chard, dandelion greens, mustard greens, broccoli and turnip greens are excellent sources of calcium, and these vegetables contain other essential minerals for bone health as well. Seaweeds (wakame, kelp, nori, dulse and chlorella) are incredibly high in calcium and other minerals.
Myth: “Only women are at risk for developing osteoporosis”
The majority of osteoporotic fractures occur in post-menopausal women as bone density declines due to low levels of estrogen; however, women are not the only ones at risk. Senile osteoporosis is characterized bone density loss and poor bone structure in both women and men after the age of 75. Senile osteoporosis can be prevented through diet, exercise and mineral supplementation.
Myth: “I am taking calcium, so that should prevent osteoporosis”
For prevention of osteoporosis, calcium is useful, but not the only necessary vitamin or mineral for growing strong bones. Magnesium and Vitamin D3 are also needed for healthy bones, and Vitamin D3 also improves calcium absorption from the diet. Strong bones are not just made of calcium, and trace minerals are required in small amounts. Minerals such as boron, zinc, chromium, manganese and copper can be found in a diet rich in vegetables and a good quality mutivitamin/multimineral supplement.
Prevention of osteoporosis also includes weight bearing exercise, lifestyle modification, and a high calcium-low phosphorus diet with lots of vegetables and limited sources of red meat and fast food.
Some women who are menopausal or suffer from amenorrhea may require bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to ensure adequate estrogen to protect bone integrity.
Myth: “Soft drinks and alcohol do not effect bone density”
Soft drinks are high in phosphorus, an element that opposes the action of calcium. If phosphorus levels are high, calcium is removed from the bones and circulates in the blood. If phosphorus levels are low, calcium is stored in the bones. Osteoporotic changes can begin to happen even in childhood if soft drinks are consumed regularly.
As little as 2 alcoholic drinks per day increases your risk of osteoporotic fracture, although a small amount of alcohol (1-2oz per week) is associated with higher bone mineral density and reduced fracture risk. Moderation is key!
If you have any other questions or myths about osteoporosis that you would like clarified, please post a comment below