Calcium and Osteoporosis            Osteoporosis           Main Page                Home

You might think that you are getting all the calcium you need from your diet, but the truth is that a vast proportion
of our population falls short of their daily calcium requirements. With a diet lacking in this mineral, our body starts
to use it's calcium stores from our bones, which then weakens the bones over time resulting in a strong risk for a
condition known as osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis, which most commonly affects middle-aged and elderly women, is a disease in which a reduced
bone mass and strength causes bones to fracture easily. The areas most at risk are the hips, wrists and the spine.
Other symptoms may include pain in the hips and back, loss of height and sometimes a stooped posture, as the
bones of the spinal column became weak and compressed. It is the commonest bone disease in the Western world.
The good news however is that it can be prevented.

What causes osteoporosis?
From childhood, bone mass and strength increase and reach a peak by the age of 30 years.Regular exercise
and a balanced diet containing sufficient amounts of calcium will help maximise this bone density, and a women
who have a high peak bone mass in early adulthood are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life.

During menopause there is a sharp decline in the hormone oestrogen and the rate of bone loss increase dramatically.
This is due to the fact that oestrogen has a protective influence on bone. Therefore, oestrogen replacement therapy
is the most effective way of maintaining healthy bones and preventing fractures after menopause.

Dietary calcium
Bone research has shown that an adequate calcium intake during childhood and adolescence has a beneficial effect
on bone mass and also helps to prevent hip fractures in old age. Adequate dietary calcium is particular important in
those women at greatest risk, namely whites and Asians.

Calcium requirements vary according to age:
Age Group
Calcium per day (mg)
children 1 - 8 years
800
children 9 - 18 years
1300
adults 19 - 50 years
1000
pregnancy, lactation
1000
adults 51 - 70 years
1200

Dairy products are the major source of calcium in the diet. Other sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables,
calcium fortified fruit juice, canned fish with bones such as salmon, pilchards and sardines, sesame seeds and
almonds.
Here are some delicious and easy ways to get more calcium from your diet:
*Add a generous serving of yoghurt to your breakfast cereal or fruit
*Use milk and yoghurt instead of water when baking biscuits, cakes, scones and muffins
*Add milk to cream based sauces and soups
As an example, a calcium intake of approximately 1200mg can be achieved with the following combination of foods:

milk, all varieties
500ml ( cups)
600mg
Cheese - hard
30g ( size of a matchbox
200mg
Salmon
half can (100g)
200mg
Bread - brown
4 slices
80mg
Broccoli, cooked
1/2 cup (150g)
70mg
Almonds - blanched
25g
60mg
TOTAL
1210mg

Vitamin D is needed by the body to absorb calcium. The main source of this vitamin is the action of sunlight on the
skin, but it is also found in some foods such as oily fish, eggs and some fortified foods such as margarine and
some breakfast cereals.

Prevention is better than cure
Treatment of advanced osteoporosis is difficult and therefore prevention is far more effective than the treatment of this
condition.
*The consumption of alcohol should be limited, due to it hastening calcium loss, and caffeine consumption should
 not exceed
 4-5 cups of coffee and tea a day.
*The risk of osteoporosis can be increased with smoking as it interferes with oestrogen production.
*Regular, but not excessive exercise, from an early age is extremely important as a preventative measure. Bones
 respond to the stresses and strains involved in exercise by becoming denser and therefore stronger.
*Many post-menopausal women can benefit from hormone replacement therapy, which replaces waning stores of
 oestrogen.
 It is recommended that you consult with your doctor first before commencing on any form of hormone treatment.