Nutrition for osteoporosis

The diet for osteoporosis is crucial for the fight against this globally relevant disease, which the WHO ranks among the 10 most important diseases.

The main risk group for osteoporosis consists of women from the age of fifty.
Women are affected about three times more often than men.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a reduced density of the bone, which as a result becomes more brittle.
As a result, the risk of fractures increases for the affected person.
Osteoporosis can be cured, even if it is very pronounced, but adequate prevention is much easier.
The two most important elements for this are nutrition and exercise.
With a healthy diet and sufficient exercise, bone loss can be combated.
A vegetarian or vegan diet is ideal, while a Dukan diet, which calls for a high-protein diet, is harmful to the body.

Osteoporosis does not only depend on age.
From the age of 40, bone density gradually and continuously decreases as a result of the natural aging process.
This loss of substance due to age is about 0.2 – 0.4% per year.
A person who cannot build normal bone mass in childhood and adolescence may develop juvenile osteoporosis.
Improving bone health is a phenomenon that affects both men and women throughout life.
You need to act on the factors that affect bone health at any age to prevent osteoporosis.


What is osteoporosis?

The term “osteoporosis” means “porous bone” and refers to excessive brittleness of bone due to the destruction of bone structure.
One consequence that occurs in older people in the thoracic spine is the “widow’s hump”, which occurs when the vertebral bodies collapse because they can no longer support the body weight.
Every year, more bone tissue is destroyed than is built.
In osteoporosis, the process of destruction and reconstruction of the bone proceeds abnormally.
The loss of bone substance is much greater than usual.
In young people, in comparison, more bone substance is built up (positive balance), while in older people more calcium is removed from the bone than is supplied (negative balance).
This negative bone balance causes osteoporosis.

In women, menopause causes many hormonal and physiological changes.
Without the protection of estrogens, bone loss accelerates.
In the 5-10 years after menopause, women lose between 2 and 5% of their bone mass.
In some women, this loss is even up to 30%.
Men are protected by the sex hormone testosterone, which is produced into old age and protects against osteoporosis.
In addition, men have a larger bone mass and thus a better starting position.
Therefore, osteoporosis in men occurs much later.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

Risk factors that cannot be influenced:

  • Absence of female sex hormones
  • No pregnancy
  • Early menopause
  • Congenital diseases (cystic fibrosis, homocystinuria, etc.)
  • Taking cortisone medication over a longer period of time

Correctable risk factors:

  • Improper diet (lack of vitamin D, calcium, vitamin C and K)
  • Lack
  • Misuse of harmful substances (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine)

The basic rule: calcium, vitamin D and exercise

Calcium is a bone component, but you also need vitamin D to absorb it from the intestines and reduce urinary excretion.
Exercise stimulates calcium deposition, strengthens bone structure and muscle mass, which protects the bone from trauma.

In general, the nutritional principles of osteoporosis are similar to those of treating high cholesterol and diabetes, namely:

  • avoid animal protein and dairy products;
  • avoid fried products;
  • do not eat processed foods, desserts, cakes, etc.;
  • lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes.

By and large, an alkaline diet is required, which lowers the acidity of the blood, quite unlike a high-protein diet, which has the opposite effect.

Table of quantities for the recommended intake of calcium (mg/day)
Gender or conditionAgeRecommended amount (mg)
Children6-12 months500
1-3 years800
4-6 years800
7-10 years1000
Boys/Men11-14 years1200
15-17 years1200
18-29 years1000
30-59 years800
> 60 years1000
Girls/Women11-14 years1200
15-17 anni1200
18-29 years1000
30-49 years800
> 50 years1500*
Nursing period1200

What diet helps treat osteoporosis?

It is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, with the right daily amounts of vitamin D and calcium.
Both calcium and vitamin D are essential for the treatment of osteoporosis.

Foods that contain a lot of vitamin D:

  • Yolk
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Fungi
  • Some types of fish (herring, tuna, salmon, mackerel)
  • Cod liver oil
  • Soy or rice milk

Most of these foods are discouraged because they are not suitable for our body. But there are other foods that contain vitamin D and are of great benefit to the body: sesame seeds, flaxseed, sunflower seeds and some cereals such as oats.

Vitamin D supports the absorption of calcium in the intestine and its absorption in the kidneys, thus promoting proper mineralization of bone.
You should spend at least 30 minutes a day in the sun, as the ultraviolet rays cause the formation of a precursor of vitamin D in the skin and therefore promote its formation.

Foods that contain a lot of calcium:
– Mineral water containing calcium Drinking water
can be an important source of calcium. If a person drinks 1.5-2 l of calcium-containing water (approx>150 mg/dl), they can cover 50% of their daily needs.
– Green leafy vegetables (stem cabbage, artichokes, cabbage, chicory, beet leaves, endive, green radicchio, rocket, spinach) – Legumes (beans, chickpeas, broad beans, peas, lentils and soya) – Fatty nuts (e.g. walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, almonds)

However, there are negative factors related to the absorption of calcium from food:
– A relative excess of PHOSPHATES increases calcium excretion via the stool.
Phosphates bind the calcium and prevent it from being deposited in the bones.
They are labelled under the names E450, E341 and E338 and are mainly found in soft drinks.

– One should avoid eating too many high-fiber foods, i.e. no more than 35 grams per day. Fiber and some substances found in high-fiber foods (oxalic acid and phytic acid) can reduce the bioavailability of calcium because they bind to it and prevent absorption.
In addition, fiber accelerates the passage through the gastrointestinal tract and thus shortens the available time for the absorption of calcium.
– One should also reduce the intake of CAFFEINATED substances: a moderate consumption of no more than 3 cups of coffee per day is recommended.
Caffeine increases the loss of calcium via the kidneys and intestines.
– ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION should be limited: alcoholic beverages (wine, beer and spirits) should be avoided.
A large amount of ethanol has negative effects on bone formation.
– TOBACCO consumption should be limited or, if possible, even stopped: Cigarette smoke reduces estrogen levels and thus reduces deposition in the bone.

The intake of too much calcium has the opposite effect and promotes osteoporosis.

Exercise regularly for osteoporosis

A healthy diet with sufficient calcium content and regular exercise are very important for bone health.
Recent studies have shown that exercising before menopause and in subsequent years has a positive effect on bone density.
It is important to have regular physical activity over a long period of time, such as walking, climbing stairs, lifting light weights, etc.

Sports activities without the effect of gravity do not help treat osteoporosis, so swimming and cycling, for example, are not recommended.

Note: The nutritional advice on this page is non-binding and adjustments may be required by the family doctor based on individual medical history.

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