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Health Library and Resource

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, a condition of accelerated loss of bone, is a major health problem in North America and is responsible for well over one million bone fractures each year. More women die from the complications of these fractures annually than from the combined deaths resulting from breast and cervical cancer.

Here are some facts regarding osteoporosis :

  • a woman will typically lose 50% of her bone mass during her lifetime.
  • 1 of every 3 women will have a hip fracture in extreme old age.
  • Middle-aged and elderly women intake only 550 mg of calcium per day. Women with osteoporosis intake even less.
  • Calcium requirements are 1000 mg/day for pre-menopausal women and 1500 mg/day for post-menopausal women since :
    1. Middle aged women can not achieve calcium balances at intakes of less than 1000mg/day.
    2. Calcium absorption efficiency drops with age.
  • Five factors determine the risk of developing osteoporosis :
    1. Age
    2. Initial bone density
    3. Bioavailability of calcium consumed
    4. If you have already experienced menopause
    5. Various sporadic factors such as : low weight, alcohol intake, smoking

Who has a greater risk of getting osteoporosis ?

Check all of the risk factors that apply to you :

Female
Age 50 or older
Past menopause
Prolonged hormonal imbalances
Ovaries removed, or menopause by age 45
Not enough calcium and vitamin D in your food
Not enough physical activity
Family history or osteoporosis
Thin, 'small-boned'
White or Eurasian ancestry
Smoker
Caffeine (more than 3 cups a day of coffee, tea, or cola)
Alcohol (more than two drinks a day)
Excess use of certain medication (cortisone and prednisone, thyroid hormone, anticonvulsants,and aluminum-containing antacids)


If you've checked 4 or more risk factors, please read on and then consult a health professional.

The most effective treatment for the prevention of osteoporosis is :
(1) complete calcium/magnesium source
(2) 400 IU of vitamin D
(3) and regular weight bearing exercises !

Is dietary calcium the answer?

Yes, however not all sources of calcium offer equal protection. Calcium carbonate is widely sold in many products, however it is not absorbed well by the body and thus offers little calcium. Calcium gluconate, lactonate or chelate are the best sources of calcium.

Milk is a good source of calcium, but many people have developed an allergy towards milk. So, milk isn't for everyone. No doubt you've seen advertisements suggesting you take Tums "for the calcium you need". Tums is an antacid which contains calcium carbonate. Ironically, when the normal acid secreted in your stomach is neutralized, calcium is very poorly absorbed. The digestion and absorption of other nutrients is also impaired. In fact, high intake of calcium carbonate may lead to other disorders through negative effects on the metabolism of other nutrients.

What May Help

Recent scientific evidence, however, support the following conclusions about the prevention of bone loss through comprehensive supplementation:

1. The adverse effects of age-related bone loss may be prevented if adequate amounts of calcium are ingested during childhood. Some go so far as to say osteoporosis should be viewed as a pediatric disease. Maximum bone density in young children and adolescents may not be achieved because calcium intake is often not adequate. National surveys show that many children in the U.S. consume less than half of the RDA for calcium. It is also known that a large amount of the bone a woman will lose during her lifetime is lost before menopause. The once believed notion that bone loss occurs only in elderly women is inaccurate. Many researchers feel quality calcium supplementation is essential for both young and old.

2. Supplemental calcium may significantly reduce the progression of bone loss already begun in postmenopausal women. One study group experienced a 43% reduction in bone loss when they added 1,000 mg of calcium to their normal diet. The researchers concluded that complete calcium supplementation may slow or reduce bone loss.

Who May Benefit From Calcium/Magnesium Supplementation?

Recent food surveys demonstrate a majority of North-American men, women and children fail to consume adequate amounts of certain minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and manganese. Considering the important role these minerals play in building and maintaining strong and healthy bones, proper bone nourishment is essential for all North-Americans.

Other risk factors which may result in an accelerated loss of bone include:

  • menopause
  • hysterectomy
  • a family history of osteoporosis
  • a thin, petite or small frame
  • pregnancy
  • breast feeding
  • allergy to, or avoidance of, milk or dairy products
  • regular use of drugs such as Dilantin, Prednisone, Lasix, Synthroid or other steroids
  • anti-ulcer medication
  • antacids containing aluminum
  • certain antibiotics
  • alcoholism
  • inadequate exercise or sedentary occupation
  • smoking
  • digestive problems
  • excess consumption of soft drinks or caffeine
  • diets inadequate in calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, and/or copper
  • any of the following diseases - diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, hyperparathyroidism, gum disease

Recommendations for Promoting Optimal Bone Health

Reduce excessive protein and fat intake, and eliminate junk food from your diet. Avoid excess alcohol consumption. Increase intake of green, leafy vegetables; seeds; and whole, fresh foods. Avoid aluminum cookware and aluminum-containing antacids. Exercise regularly. Take a high quality calcium/magnesium supplement to provide excellent bone nourishment. Don't smoke.

Regular Exercise is Important

Weight bearing exercises also aid in the reduction of bone loss. The best exercises for strengthening bones include brisk walking, strength training, stair climbing, hiking, and dancing. Although swimming and cycling are good aerobic exercises, they put less weight on the bones - and therefore do less to increase skeletal mass.