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Osteoporosis, bone condition characterized by a decrease in mass, resulting in bones that are more porous and more easily fractured than normal bones. Fractures of the wrist, spine, and hip are most common; however, all bones can be affected.
White females are the most susceptible, but other risk factors include low calcium intake; inadequate physical activity; certain drugs, such as corticosteroids, (see Corticoids); and a family history of the disease.
The most common form of the disease, primary osteoporosis, includes postmenopausal (see Menopause), or estrogen-deficient, osteoporosis (Type I), which is observed in women whose ovaries have ceased to produce the hormone estrogen; age-related osteoporosis (Type II), which affects those over the age of 70; and idiopathic osteoporosis, a rare disorder of unknown cause that affects premenopausal women and men who are middle-aged or younger. Secondary osteoporosis may be caused by bone disuse as a result of paralysis or other conditions, including weightlessness in space; endocrine and nutritional disorders, including anorexia nervosa; specific disease processes; and certain drug therapies.
While osteoporosis has traditionally been associated with inadequate calcium intake, substantial evidence implicates as strong causes excessive protein and phosphorous consumption, caffeine consumption, smoking, and sedentary living.
1. Get some daily sunshine for vitamin D: Twenty minutes of sunshine each day helps to prevent a vitamin D deficiency. Among its many functions, vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and helps regulates normal calcification of the bones. For days when you can't get out in the sun, good natural dietary sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, liver, egg yolks, tuna, sardines and salmon.
2. Phosphorus is a mineral people get from eating protein rich foods such as meat and milk. Some soft drinks, such as colas, also contain phosphorus. While phosphorus is needed to form bones and teeth, medical studies have shown that too much phosphorus in the diet may upset the calcium balance in humans.
3. Fiber should be part of a healthy diet. There are certain types of fiber that can affect the amount of calcium the body absorbs. Rhubarb, spinach, chard, and beet greens contain oxalate, which may decrease the absorption of calcium. Phytic acid, found in wheat bran, combines with calcium and also decreases its absorption. Fiber, however, is very helpful to the digestive tract, so it is important to balance the level of calcium intake with the amount and type of fiber in the diet. A diet containing up to 35 grams of fiber per day should be adequate for healthy bowel movements, without adversely affecting calcium absorption.
4. Caffeine increases the loss of calcium through the kidneys and intestines. While a moderate amount of caffeine per day (300-400 mg) has only a small effect, more caffeine may cause a much greater loss of calcium. Therefore, avoid
Drinking more than three cups
Of regular coffee or other high
Caffeine beverages a day.
5. Excessive alcohol intake may lead to loss of calcium in the bone. Poor nutrition is often related to abuse of alcohol. It has also been shown that alcohol has a toxic effect on the formation of bone cells. Do not have more than one or two drinks per day. One drink would be 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of 80 proof distilled spirits.
6. Lifestyle can have an effect on the risk of developing osteoporosis. Cigarette smoking increases bone loss, and it may cause lower estrogen levels. Regular exercise, including moderate weight-bearing exercise, helps prevent bone loss and increases the total amount of bone in the body. This is especially important for the elderly who tend to become sedentary. Examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, cross-country skiing, jogging, aerobic dancing, and weight-training.
7. Food sources of calcium include milk and dairy products, which are the best sources of absorbable calcium. About 25% to 35% of the calcium in dairy products is absorbed in normal healthy people. Dark green leafy vegetables also contain moderate amounts of calcium, but their content of oxalate and fiber may cause less of the calcium to be absorbed. Whole grain flours contain more calcium than milled white flours; however, whole grain flours contain more fiber and phytic acid. Fish are also good sources of calcium. Foods such as orange juice, breakfast cereals, breads, milk, and yogurt are often fortified with calcium.