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NOURISHING YOUR BONES: NUTRITION MANAGEMENT FOR OSTEOPOROSIS



In this article, we’ll look at the critical role nutrition plays in managing osteoporosis and building stronger bones. By understanding the importance of nutrition in bone health and implementing practical dietary strategies, individuals can take proactive steps toward protecting their bones and enjoying a healthier, more vibrant life. 


INTRODUCTION

Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by low bone mass, weakened bone tissue, and structural changes that make bones more susceptible to fractures. It often goes unnoticed because symptoms may not appear until a bone breaks. It is a common cause of fractures, particularly in older individuals, with the hips, spine vertebrae, and wrists being the most vulnerable. Age, gender, and body size are all risk factors for osteoporosis. Lifestyle choices, such as diet, also play a significant role in bone health. 



BUILDING STRONGER BONES THROUGH HEALTHY EATING HABITS

Protein 

It is important to note that increased protein intake can improve bone health through a variety of mechanisms. This includes improving calcium absorption, increasing insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) secretion, and promoting lean body mass. However, high protein consumption can cause increased calcium loss through urine, resulting in a negative calcium balance and possibly a decline in bone density, regardless of age. Hence, it is suggested to maintain adequate protein intake within recommended levels for optimal bone health.


To ensure a balanced protein intake, consider incorporating sources such as chickpeas, lentils, tofu, chicken, tuna, and walnuts into your diet. These options provide high-quality protein and promote overall bone health. 


Calcium

Calcium is essential for bone health because it accounts for 99% of the body’s calcium stores, with approximately 67% of bone composition consisting of the mineral hydroxyapatite and the remaining 33% composed of organic substances such as collagen. When calcium is insufficient, serum calcium levels fall, resulting in a cascade of effects. Increased secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH) stimulates bone resorption, releasing calcium into the bloodstream to maintain serum levels. However, prolonged imbalance lowers bone mineral density (BMD) and increases the risk of osteoporosis. 


Calcium's importance in preventing osteoporosis stems from its direct relationship with BMD and overall bone health. Nevertheless, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is equally important for calcium absorption in the intestines. Calcium uptake decreases when vitamin D levels are low, resulting in decreased bone mass and an increased risk of osteoporosis. 


Milk, cheese, tofu, yoghurt, broccoli, cabbage, and okra are all good sources of calcium. Individuals with lactose intolerance can meet their calcium needs with alternative sources such as soy milk, almonds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and edamame. 


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for our health, with nearly 90% of our required intake synthesised in the skin through sunlight exposure, and only a small portion obtained from food. Nonetheless, factors such as decreased sunlight exposure due to ageing or short periods of exposure can impede this synthesis process, contributing to widespread vitamin D deficiency, particularly among the elderly. 


This deficiency may have significant consequences for our bone health. Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus levels in the body, and a lack of it can cause secondary hyperparathyroidism, increase bone turnover, and reduce bone mineralisation, increasing the risk of fractures. In children, insufficient vitamin D causes rickets by disrupting cartilage calcification, whereas in adults, it causes osteomalacia, a condition in which newly formed bone lacks proper mineralisation. Secondary hyperparathyroidism is a major cause of vitamin D deficiency which can often result in pelvic fractures. 


To ensure adequate vitamin D intake, include oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), egg yolks, and fortified products such as certain spreads and breakfast cereals in your diet. Individuals with vitamin D deficiency may also benefit from supplementation, which has been shown to reduce the risk of falls and fractures, particularly in those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or live in institutions. 


Vitamin K

Vitamin K is an essential coenzyme in the gamma-carboxylation process, which is necessary for the synthesis of bone proteins such as osteocalcin. According to research, vitamin K may aid in preventing age-related bone mineral density (BMD) loss by promoting bone health. Vitamin K deficiency causes the production of non-carboxylated osteocalcin, which has been linked to lower BMD and an increased risk of osteoporosis fractures. 


Vitamin K is abundant in a variety of foods, including leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and fermented products like sauerkraut. 


Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for human and mammalian physiology as it plays an important role in the function of many vital organs. It helps to build bone and teeth and functions as a cofactor for over 300 enzymes. Magnesium deficiency can cause endothelial dysfunction, compromising bone health. It also stimulates the release of inflammatory cytokines, which affect bone remodelling and may lead to osteopenia. Besides, lower magnesium levels increase the release of free radicals, which may harm skeletal muscle structure, particularly the sarcoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria. Furthermore, magnesium interacts with calciotropic hormones, modulating calcium levels. The balance of magnesium and calcium is critical in bone physiology and pathology. 


Include magnesium-rich foods in your diet, such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, cashews, almonds, apples, bananas, salmon, and chicken breast, to ensure adequate intake


Lastly, investing in your bone health through proper nutrition is a proactive step toward a healthy, fulfilling life. Individuals can protect their bones in the long run by understanding the critical role of nutrition in osteoporosis management and implementing practical dietary strategies. Remember, nourishing your bones now lays the groundwork for a healthier tomorrow!



REFERENCES

Garrick, N. (2017, April 7). Osteoporosis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoporosis#:~:text=Osteoporosis%20is%20a%20bone%20disease


Hejazi, J., Davoodi, A., Khosravi, M., Sedaghat, M., Abedi, V., Hosseinverdi, S., Ehrampoush, E., Homayounfar, R., & Shojaie, L. (2020). Nutrition and osteoporosis prevention and treatment. Biomedical Research and Therapy, 7(4), 3709–3720. https://doi.org/10.15419/bmrat.v7i4.598


Muñoz-Garach, A., García-Fontana, B., & Muñoz-Torres, M. (2020). Nutrients and Dietary Patterns Related to Osteoporosis. Nutrients, 12(7), 1986. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12071986


National Institutes of Health. (2016). Office of Dietary Supplements - Magnesium. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/


NHS. (2022, January 18). Food for healthy bones. Nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/bone-health/food-for-strong-bones/


Restivo, J. (2023, December 1). High-protein foods: The best protein sources to include in a healthy diet. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/high-protein-foods-the-best-protein-sources-to-include-in-a-healthy-diet


Sozen, T., Ozisik, L., & Calik Basaran, N. (2017). An overview and management of osteoporosis. European Journal of Rheumatology, 4(1), 46–56. https://doi.org/10.5152/eurjrheum.2016.048


Zhu, J., & March, L. (2022). Treating osteoporosis: risks and management. Www.nps.org.au. https://doi.org/10.18773/austprescr.2022.054 



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