According to the National Osteoporosis Society one in three women and one in twelve men in the UK will develop osteoporosis during their lifetime. Worryingly, the condition is increasing in prevalence by around 10 per cent each year, which is mainly attributed to poor dietary and lifestyle choices. This may be due to the many misconceptions that surround the disease. One being to opt for a low protein diet to maintain bone health – when in fact the very reverse is true.
Osteoporosis causes a reduction in bone density, resulting in bones becoming thin, weak and brittle – this greatly increases the risk of fractures. Over 200,000 fractures are suffered each year in the UK alone. That’s a broken bone every three minutes.
However, the good news is that osteoporosis is easily preventable as well as being a fully treatable condition. That’s why it’s vital that you start taking measures to protect your bones from the disease… the earlier you take action the better.
Why your bones need a helping hand as you age
Your bones are in a constant state of renewal. Substances called osteoclasts break down and remove old bone that has become damaged and fragile, while osteoblasts rebuild bone, replacing that which the osteoclasts remove. However, as you age your body becomes less efficient at performing this action, and commonly more bone is lost than is rebuilt. Left unchecked, this situation can eventually result in osteoporosis developing.
Peak bone mass is reached in adults between the age of 25 and 30, after which time bone mass begins to slowly decline. Bone mass is 30 per cent higher in males than females, which is why men are less susceptible to osteoporosis… although, contrary to popular belief, they are still at risk.
Apart from gender, other risk factors include body weight (thin, small-framed women have less bone mass which puts them at greater risk), certain medicines such as steroids, the menopause (due to declining levels of oestrogen, a hormone which stimulates osteoblast cells), and a sedentary lifestyle (made worse by smoking and consuming alcohol and caffeine). A reliance on processed convenience foods also puts you at risk, as these meals are severely depleted of many essential nutrients –
such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin D – that are needed for good bone health.
What to do if you think you may be at risk
You should be aware that osteoporosis rarely produces any symptoms, as bone loss normally occurs very gradually. However, signs that indicate you should see your doctor include a sudden loss of height, chronic back pain and a change in posture.
Osteoporosis is diagnosed using a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test, which usually involves X-rays of the spine and hip area. An ultrasound test may also be conducted (normally performed on your wrist or heel), which also measures bone density.
Apart from hormonal therapy (HRT), conventional treatment for osteoporosis usually involves taking drugs such as raloxifene, risedronate or adendronate.
While these drugs can help prevent bone loss, their side effects can be severe. These include nausea, gastrointestinal problems, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, muscle or joint soreness, allergic reactions (such as difficulty breathing, closing of the throat, facial swelling or hives), leg cramps and blood clots. HRT has been linked to breast cancer, stroke and heart disease.
The following natural measures, when used together, are much safer and often far more effective than conventional treatments for the disease.
Contrary to popular belief, eating protein builds bone
It used to be thought that a high protein diet contributed to the onset of osteoporosis. This belief was largely based on small-scale studies that detected increased amounts of calcium in the urine of those following a high protein diet. Calcium is vital in the formation of new bone.
However, since then studies have shown that the excretion of calcium, as a result of protein consumption, only lasts temporarily (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1983;37(6):924-9). In fact, protein has been found to help the absorption of important minerals from the gastrointestinal tract, making them available to build bone.
It is sugar and refined carbohydrates that are the real culprits. They need to be kept to a minimum in your diet as studies have shown that they acidify the blood and cause calcium to leach from your bones — thereby lowering overall bone mass (Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 1995; 26(3):395-400; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1989;50(5):955-61).
Provide Your Body With The Raw Materials It Needs To Build New Bone
1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle – Don’t smoke and limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine, as they reduce your body’s ability to absorb vital bone-building nutrients. Exercise should be incorporated into your lifestyle too. Weight-bearing exercises are best as they help to increase the strength and thickness of your bones as well as your muscles (Endocrinol Metab Clin N Am 1998, 27 (2) 369-387). However, check with your doctor first before starting on a strenuous exercise regime.
2. Calcium, Vitamin D and Magnesium can help prevent the loss of calcium from your bones, especially after the menopause (Endocrinol Metab Clin N Am 1998, 27(2) 389-398). Increase your dietary intake of calcium to keep your bones strong by eating more cheese, sardines, broccoli and dark leafy vegetables. Supplementing with this essential mineral is also advisable: take 1,000mg of calcium a day; women over 50 (especially post-menopausal women) and men over 65 should take a higher dose of 1,500mg.
3. Vitamin D3 is also important for maintaining healthy bones and protecting against fractures, as you’ll see from the latest research findings reported on in this month’s health flash on page 8. Take 400IU of Vitamin D3 a day. Magnesium also helps your body absorb calcium – take between 400 and 600mg each day. Dietary sources include chickpeas, dried figs, prunes, pumpkin seeds and peanuts.
Natural progesterone cream has benefits similar to those of oestrogen, and appears to increase bone tissue and the calcium content in your bones (Endocr Rev 1990, 11 (2),386-398). Natural progesterone is usually obtained from yam extracts and helps to both prevent and treat osteoporosis. Natural progesterone cream is currently available on prescription only in the UK, so speak to your doctor about the possibility of receiving treatment. Normally one pea-sized portion is recommended, to be rubbed on your skin once or twice a day.
Succulent Garlic And Rosemary Marinated Lamb
Following the numerous requests from many of our readers for tasty and easy to cook low-carb recipes, this marinated lamb dish fits the bill perfectly. Not only is it low in carbs – with only 3.8 grams per serving – but it also has the added benefit of being absolutely delicious. Better still, it couldn’t be simpler to make.
For this dish you’ll need the following ingredients:
100ml of olive oil
1 clove of garlic. Finely chop the garlic (alternatively you may prefer to use a garlic crusher).
5 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons of dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary)
450g boneless lamb chops. Cut the lamb into cubes (about 2.5cm in length)
Put the rosemary, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice into a bowl and mix well. Then add the lamb, making sure each piece is properly coated. Cover the bowl and put in your fridge for about 15 minutes.
Then put the lamb cubes onto skewers and place under a pre-heated grill. Place under the grill for 12 minutes, turning once. You may wish to let the lamb cook for slightly longer, depending on how well done you like your lamb.
Serve immediately. With salad this dish makes an ideal lunch. For a tasty meal simply add as many veggies as you wish.
For more information visit the National Osteoporosis Society website: www.nos.org.uk
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