Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by decreased bone density which therefore becomes more fragile.

The consequence is that the person has a higher risk of fractures. Osteoporosis can be cured even if it is severe, but prevention is simpler. For this purpose, the two most important things are food and physical exercise.  With a healthy diet and physical activity we can neutralize the bone resorption.  Vegan or vegetarian diets are ideal, while the dukan diet that provides a high protein diet is harmful to the body.

Osteoporosis depends not only on age. After age 40, bone density decreases progressively and continuously, in a natural process. This substantial loss due to age is about 0.2 – 0.4% per year.  An individual who does not reach a normal level of bone mass during childhood and adolescence may develop osteoporosis in youth. Improving bone health is something that lasts a lifetime for both men and women. We must act on factors that affect bone health at all ages to prevent osteoporosis.

 

What is osteoporosis?

The term ‘osteoporosis’ means ‘porous bone’, that is, an excessive bone fragility due to the destruction of the bone structure.
A consequence that occurs in older adults at the thoracic spine is the ‘widow’s hunch’ that develops when the bodies of the vertebrae collapse because they are no longer able to support the weight of the body. Every year, more bone is destroyed than is produced. In osteoporosis, the regulation of bone destruction and reconstruction processes is abnormal. The loss of bone substance is much greater than normal.
In young people there is a relative increase in the bone substance (positive budget), while in the elderly, more calcium is collected from the bone compared to what is established (negative budget). This negative bone budget causes osteoporosis.

In women, menopause causes many physical and hormonal changes. Without the protection of estrogen, bone loss accelerates. In 5-10 years after menopause, women lose 2 to 5% of mass in the bones. In some women, this loss reaches 30%. Men are protected by the sex hormone testosterone, which remains even in old age and protects against osteoporosis.
In addition, men have a larger bone mass, so they start from a better situation. Therefore, osteoporosis in men appears much later.

 

Risk factors

– The lack of female sex hormones
– No pregnancy
– Early menopause
– Congenital diseases ( cystic fibrosis , homocystinuria, etc.)
– Prolonged treatment with corticosteroids

Correctable risk factors

– Poor nutrition (lack of vitamin D, calcium, vitamin C and K)
– Lack of movement
– Abuse of unnecessary substances (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine)

 

The fundamental rule: calcium, vitamin D and physical activity.

Calcium is a component of bones, but vitamin D is required for absorption in the intestine and reduce elimination in the urine. Physical activity stimulates the deposition of calcium, the reinforcement of the bone structure, but also the muscle that protects the bone itself from the effects of trauma.

Generally the nutrition principles for osteoporosis are similar to that for cholesterol and diabetes , ie:

  • Avoid animal proteins and dairy products
  • Avoid fried foods
  • Do not eat processed foods, sweets, cakes, etc.
  • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and veggies.

Generally serves an alkaline feed, that is, it reduces the acidity of the blood, as opposed to a diet rich in proteins  that has the opposite effect.

Table of recommended calcium intake levels (mg / day)

Gender and condition Age Recommended level (mg)
Children 6-12 months 500
1-3 years 800
4-6 years 800
7-10 years 1000
Male 11-14 years 1200
15-17 years 1200
18-29 years 1000
30-59 years 800
> 60 years 1000
Female 11-14 years 1200
15-17 years 1200
18-29 years 1000
30-49 years 800
> 50 years 1500*
Pregnancy 1200
Lactation 1200

* In case of treatment with estrogen, the requirement is 1000 mg / day

 

What is the diet to treat osteoporosis?

It is important to follow a balanced and healthy diet with a correct daily level of vitamin D and calcium.  Both calcium and vitamin D are essential for the treatment of osteoporosis.

 

Foods rich in vitamin D are:

  • Eggs
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Mushrooms
  • Some fish (herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna)
  • Cod liver oil
  • Soy milk or rice milk.

Most of these foods are not recommended because they are not suitable for our bodies, but there are other foods that contain vitamin D and are good for the body: sesame seeds, flax, sunflower and some cereals like oats.

Vitamin D promotes intestinal absorption and renal re-absorption of calcium and promotes the maintenance of adequate bone mineralization. It is recommended to be exposed to the sun for at least 30 minutes a day because ultraviolet rays cause the formation of a precursor of vitamin D in the skin.

Foods rich in calcium are:

  • Calcium rich mineral
  • Water: Drinking water can be an important source of calcium in the diet. If a person drinks 1.5-2 L (Ca> 150 mg / dl) of calcium water can reach 50% of the daily requirement.
  • Green vegetables and leaves (broccoli turnip, artichokes, cabbage, chicory, beets, leaves of endive, green radish, arugula, spinach).
  • Legumes (beans, chickpeas, fava beans, peas, lentils and soybeans ).
  • Dry and oily (such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, almonds).

But there are negative factors  for the absorption of calcium in the diet:

  • A relative excess of phosphates increases the expulsion of calcium in the faeces. Phosphates trap calcium and prevent bone deposits. They are recognizable on the labels with the initials E450, E341, E338, found mainly in carbonated drinks
  • Avoid eating too many foods high in fiber, that is, more than 35 grams per day. Fibers and some substances found in foods rich in fiber (oxalic acid and phytic acid) may reduce the bioavailability of calcium because they bind to it and prevent its absorption.

In addition, the fibers accelerate the intestinal transit reducing the time available for the absorption of calcium.

  • Limit the consumption of substances containing caffeine: moderate consumption is recommended, no more than 3 cups of coffee per day. Caffeine increases calcium losses through the kidneys and intestines.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: avoid alcoholic beverages (wine, beer). A high amount of alcohol has a negative effect on bone formation.
  • Limit or abolish smoking : avoid cigarette smoke because it reduces the level of estrogen and therefore reduces bone deposition.

Exaggerating calcium has the opposite effect and promotes osteoporosis.

 

Practice physical activity regularly

Healthy eating with proper calcium intake and regular physical activity are very important for bone health. Recent studies have shown that exercise performed by premenopausal women and in subsequent years has a positive effect on bone density. It is important to exercise regularly and for a long time, for example walking, climbing stairs, lifting light weights, etc.
Activities with no gravity, such as swimming and cycling, are not used to treat osteoporosis, are not recommended.
Note: The dietary advice on this page is indicative and may serve the physician’s adaptations, based on the individual’s medical history.

Read too