WHAT IS OSTEOPENIA?
Osteopenia means your bones are less dense than they should be which makes them weaker. If untreated, osteopenia can eventually turn into osteoporosis. According to the World Health Organisation, osteoporosis comes second only to heart disease as a leading health issue. It results in excessively brittle, low density bones which fracture easily. It is known as the silent disease because there are no detectable symptoms until the bones break.
Bone is often thought of as being dead and inert. This could not be further from the truth. Bone is active tissue which is constantly being broken down and renewed. It contains living cells and a network of blood vessels and nerves which require a good supply of nutrients from your diet.
Weakened bones are now not considered an inevitable part of ageing. This view has changed dramatically with an increasing amount of research showing that you can maintain excellent bone health into old age, with good nutrition and lifestyle habits. It is never too early or too late to look after your bones. The time to start is now! Here are my top 4 diet and nutrition tips.
- Calcium is only a small part of the story and on its own, it won’t be enough to support bone health. We need magnesium to help our body use calcium. Magnesium is actually more likely to be lacking in the average diet than calcium. It is not found in high amounts in dairy foods. Food processing causes huge magnesium losses. The best sources are green vegetables, nuts and wholegrains. It’s estimated that 80% of women currently consume less than the daily recommended amount of magnesium. If you are thinking of taking a magnesium supplement, avoid the carbonate or oxide forms of magnesium as they are not so well absorbed by the body.
- A mineral that you may not have heard of, Boron, is very important for preventing bone loss. It is needed for converting vitamin D to its active form and has a vital effect on the metabolism of calcium and magnesium. Food sources of boron are fruit, leafy vegetables, nuts and legumes. If you already have thinning bones, the average diet however, is unlikely to supply the amount needed for bone strengthening which is 3mg daily.
- Vitamin K has a very important role in bone formation and is only recently researched in this respect. It is needed to make a protein in bone called osteocalcin, which hardens calcium and strengthens bone. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is the most abundant form of vitamin K in western diets. However, it is vitamin K2 (menaquinone) which is associated with bone health. K2 is much less common in the Western diet because the principal source is fermented soya beans, which are more widely found in Eastern foods. Vitamin K interacts with some medications so it’s important to consult your GP or a practitioner before supplementing.
- Vitamin D reduces bone loss and fracture incidence. Vitamin D deficiency amongst the general population is now known to be a major modern day health concern. Vitamin D3 is the most useable form and can be made in the skin when exposed to UVB rays in sunlight but increased use of SPF creams mean this is less likely to happen. Exposure to the sun on bare skin for 20 minutes in the middle of the day will make around 400iu vitamin D. In the winter in the UK this will be difficult! The best food source of D3 is oily fish such as Mackerel, herring, salmon (one portion of each contains around 350iu vitamin D). Cod liver oil is the richest source. Cottage cheese and eggs contain a smaller amount. Since around 1000iu of vitamin D per day is needed, a supplement will often be required to keep levels topped up.