Strong bones need more than calcium

April 25, 2007|by LYNN LITTLE

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes very weak bones that break easily. Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but some people have a higher chance than others. Women are five times more likely, especially ones who go through menopause before age 45, to develop osteoporosis than men. People with a thin, small frame, individuals who have had lots of broken bones or a stooped posture, anyone who has or has had an eating disorder, and individuals who have used medications such as some hormones, medications for seizures and some medications for arthritis, asthma or cancer, are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. There is no way to stop or cure it, but there are things we can do to slow it down.

Lowering the chances of developing osteoporosis can be done first by getting enough calcium. Americans, especially American women, do not consume adequate calcium. Women and teen girls are often concerned about weight gain and do not drink milk or eat enough calcium-rich foods in their effort to control caloric intakes. A minimum of 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily from food and supplements is needed by most adults. Women older than 50 and men older than 65 need 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams daily.


Adequate calcium intake is necessary to build strong bones, but those with milk allergy or lactose intolerance might need to find alternate sources. Fortunately, there are several nondairy sources of calcium.

The chart at right lists some of the best food sources of calcium and the amounts contained in a typical serving:

Surprisingly, half or more of one's required daily calcium intake can be accomplished from nondairy sources such as those listed at right. Constant attention to intakes of the all-important calcium mineral will yield major rewards in terms of bone health for men and women, especially in later years.

Lowering the chances of developing osteoporosis can also be helped by getting an adequate amount of vitamin D.

Another way to lower the chances of developing osteoporosis is to get exercise every day. Dr. Miriam Nelson, author of "Strong Women, Strong Bones," says, "Simply upping calcium consumption has never been shown to increase bone density or prevent fractures in older women." In addition to walking, Nelson encourages women to engage in two or three strength-training sessions weekly to halt bone loss and to possibly regain bone density. She points out that women need not worry about developing bulky muscles through strength training. Although high impact exercises such as jumping or stair climbing can help with bone density, caution needs to be taken to do those exercises correctly. High impact exercises take their toll on joints and might need to be adapted or avoided entirely by people with joint problems or arthritic conditions.

Exercises that assist in balance training also can be useful in preventing falls that lead to broken bones.

Bones that have thinned or become brittle due to aging or osteoporosis tend to break more easily. Women's smaller bodies generally have thinner bones than do men's. This, added to their tendency to diet inappropriately, makes them more vulnerable to broken bones and osteoporosis as they get older. Men, though not immune from the deterioration of thinning bones, might fare better because they generally have larger bones than women. However, men can and do develop osteoporosis.

Health and nutrition professionals recommend that, in addition to eating healthy, balanced diet, we ingest adequate vitamin D and practice strength training to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

To learn more visit FDA/Office of Women's Health

Food and Amount - Calcium in Milligrams

yogurt, plain, nonfat, 1 cup - 450

sardines w/bones, 3 ounces - 370

yogurt, fruit flavored, 1 cup - 300

milk, 1 cup - 300

Swiss cheese, 1 ounce - 270

salmon, with bones, 3 ounces - 225

collard greens, 1 cup - 225

cheddar cheese, 1 ounce - 205

turnip greens, cooked, 1 cup - 200

oatmeal, fortified, 1 packet - 165

orange juice, calcium fortified, 1/2 cup - 150

tofu, 2 ounces - 115

kale, cooked, 1 cup - 95

ice cream or ice milk, 1/2 cup - 87

white beans, canned, 1/2 cup - 80

cottage cheese, 1/2 cup - 75

soybeans, cooked, 1/2 cup - 65

almonds, 1 ounce - 70

broccoli, cooked, 1 cup - 70

soybeans, cooked, 1/2 cup - 65

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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