Diet May Play Large Role in Preventing Osteoporosis

June 1, 2009

Osteoporosis, a disease that weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break, affects millions and millions of Americans each year. It affects women much more often than men and is more common in older people.

Osteoporosis, a disease that weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break, affects millions and millions of Americans each year. It affects women much more often than men and is more common in older people.

The good news is that it can be prevented and treated. Many experts recommend eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising and avoiding alcohol and cigarette smoke, as strong preventative measures.

A new study from Purdue University finds that dairy has an inherent advantage over calcium carbonate, the most common type of calcium used in supplements.

“The study shows that dairy builds bigger and stronger bones during growth when compared with calcium carbonate,” says Connie Weaver, PhD, lead researcher and professor at the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

At early ages, children are told by their parents to drink their milk. Between the ages of 9 and 18, people require 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day for optimal bone growth. Unfortunately, a significant portion of kids don’t get enough calcium. Oftentimes, supplements are used to make up the difference, but there has been no study, before this one, comparing the bone growth from supplements and dairy products. The results favor dairy products.

“The best thing women can do is build strong bones when they are young and then hold onto it for as long as they can with good diets and weight bearing exercise,” says Weaver.Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others, so it is important to pay attention to risk factors. The list includes:

Being female
Increasing age
Family history of osteoporosis
Thin or small body frames
Long-term use of corticosteroids
Personal history of eating disorders or amenorrhea
Sedentary lifestyle
Low estrogen levels

“Osteoporosis affects women more than men because women achieve a lower peak bone mass as well as have bone loss during menopause due to the reduction in estrogen,” explains Dorothy Teegarden, PhD, professor at Purdue University at the department of foods and nutrition.

A new national Harris Interactive survey, commissioned by the Know My Bones Council, assessed how knowledgeable and proactive women with osteoporosis are about managing their disease. Formed in 2009, the Know My Bones Council unified with a single goal: encouraging women living with osteoporosis to prioritize their bone health and seek information that will empower them to fight their disease. The Council is made up of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the Society for Women’s Health Research and four additional leading women’s advocacy groups.

Among other findings, the survey revealed that women with osteoporosis believe they are doing everything they can to manage their disease. But less than half were no more likely to know their bone mineral density score than those women who did not have osteoporosis. Almost 1 in 3 women with osteoporosis report that they often do not take their medication.

The survey revealed that more work needs to be done. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends routine bone density screening for all women ages 65 and older. The test can help doctors determine disease risk and design a treatment course. There are medications available to treat osteoporosis and compliance is extremely important for effectiveness. Doctors and patients can work together to ensure proper management of this wide-spread disease.

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© June, 1 2009 Society for Women’s Health Research