The age-related loss of bone mass known as osteoporosis, a disorder
characterized by porous, fragile bones, is a serious public health problem
for more than 10 million Americans, 80% of whom are women.
Another 34 million Americans have osteopenia, or low bone mass,
which precedes osteoporosis. When we have osteoporosis, the inside
of the bones becomes porous from a lack of calcium. As the bones
become weaker, they become fragile and susceptible to fracture, especially
of the hip, spine, and wrist, although any bone can be affected.
By the age of 80, two thirds of all women will develop
osteoporosis. Starting at about age 40, people typically lose
about half an inch (1 cm) in height each decade.
Women are much more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than
men for the following reasons:
• Women have less bone mass than men from the start.
• Women tend to live longer than men.
• Women usually consume less calcium than men do.
• The rate of bone loss accelerates after menopause because the
female hormone estrogen is needed to keep bones strong
Contrary to popular assumption, however,men are not immune
to bone loss either. Total bone mass peaks at age 35 for both men
The National Osteoporosis Foundation’s advice for bone health includes
• A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
• Weight-bearing exercise (more about this in Chapter Seven,
“Stress Reduction = Life Extension”)
• A healthy lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol intake
• Bone density testing and medication, when appropriate
Ideally, our diet will include foods rich in calcium, and the range
of such foods is much broader than you might think. Calcium superstars
include milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, dark leafy greens, broccoli,
canned sardines and salmon with bones, dried beans and peas, tofu,
and sea vegetables (seaweed). While calcium supplements can be an
adjunct therapy, the best strategy is to include calcium-rich foods at
every meal. Calcium supplements should not be considered replacements for a
Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and kefir are fermented milk products that offer many outstanding health benefits
Both yogurt and kefir are rich sources of calcium.
However, yogurt, kefir, and other fermented milk products contain an
iron-building glycoprotein known as lactoferrin, a substance that can
rejuvenate bones on a cellular level. A number of important studies
have concluded that lactoferrin may have a physiological role in bone
growth and healing, and a potentially therapeutic role as an anabolic
factor in osteoporosis
Unfortunately, between our sedentary lifestyle and our conscientious
use of sunscreens, most Americans don’t get enough vitamin D.
Studies have shown that this vitamin’s beneficial effects extend to reducing
the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers. And it’s long
been known that vitamin D helps maintain strong bones. Older adults
can also reduce their risk of falls by more than 20% by ensuring that
they get enough vitamin D. A study recently reported in the Journal of the
American Medical Association noted that “vitamin D may also improve
muscle strength, thereby reducing fracture risk through falls.”
Salmon and sardines are also superior sources for the vitally important
Luminous, radiant, wrinkle-free skin; improved mental faculties; weight loss; preservation of muscle mass; enhanced absorption of nutrients from foods; and a happy, positive mood are just a few of the benefits accrued by incorporating the omega-3s into our daily diets
However, there is another reason to include these vital fats in our
diet.We now know that we must also maintain the correct balance of
dietary fats to prevent much of the bone loss associated with postmenopausal
Researchers at Purdue University and the
Indiana University School of Medicine found that diets containing a
low ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids had decreased
Unfortunately, most Westerners’ diets are just the opposite—
high in omega-6s (found in most vegetable oils, grains, and grainfed
beef) and low in omega-3s (found in such foods as salmon,
sardines, nuts, and omega-3 eggs).