Saturday, May 8, 2010

Eating to Prevent Osteoporosis

One elderly woman in three suffers from the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis, which is a major cause of back pain and fractures.  Frighteningly, this crippling illness is now becoming less of a rarity among young women.  Everyone needs calcium to build strong bones, but most of us aren't getting enough.  According to one survey, 20 per cent of young girls get much less than they need and the pattern continues as they grow older.

Doctors are now blaming slimming diets for the upsurge of osteoporois among women in their twenties and thirties, long before it should be a problem.  (It's also tied in with the female hormone oestrogen, which is why it's so common after the menopause.)

Although adults stop growing at the age of twenty, their bones don't reach peak density until thirty to thirty-five.  After the age of thirty-five bones start to thin, but a calcium-rich diet, together with regular weight-bearing exercise, can help to prevent them from becoming weak or brittle.

All women should eat three or four servings of calcium-rich food every day - 85-140g (3-5oz) to help build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.  Menopausal and pregnant women need more: at least four servings per day.  And if you're tempted to give up dairy products to try to keep your weight down, bear in mind that skimmed milk has all the calcium with hardly any fat content.

A lack of the mineral magnesium seems to add to the problem, by preventing the body from absorbing the calcium properly.  It's found in meat, seafoods, green vegetables and, again, dairy products.  Don't overdo the meat, though, as too much protein also contributes to osteoporosis by making the body excrete calcium.
  • Try to include a calcium-rich food with every meal.
  • The best sources of calcium are low-fat milk, yoghurt and low-fat cheese.
  • One serving of calcium-rich food equals 40g (1.5oz) of cheese, one 200ml (8fl oz) glass of milk or a 200ml (8fl oz) serving of yoghurt.
  • Non-dairy sources of calcium include broccoli, canned sardines and salmon (with bones), tofu, pulses, muesli with nuts, and white bread.
  • Limit consumption of salt, coffee, sugar and alcohol, as these deplete calcium supplies.
  • Remember that there's caffeine in chocolate and cola drinks as well as in coffee - even tea contains a little caffeine.
  • Cut down on smoking for the same reason.  Along with all the other havoc smoking wreaks on your body, it reduces production of oestrogen.
  • Increase your consumption of essential fatty acids (EFAs) found in oily fish, sunflower and safflower oil.  EFAs increase calcium absorption.

Source from Essential Health For Women by Sharon Walker