Strong Bones: 5 Novel Foods for Osteoporosis Prevention

Osteoporosis: Silent Stalker

Osteoporosis is a public health problem that affects about 54 million people. It’s a condition where the bones become thin and then weaken. It can occur anywhere in the skeletal system and it’s always silent in terms of symptoms. When a fracture occurs, it is often life altering because it is difficult to repair the extensive fracture. I can still remember my sharp and nimble 85 year old grandfather stumbling on a hose and breaking his hip. He never came out of the surgery. Fortunately, a first line of defense is selecting foods for osteoporosis prevention. A diet with foods providing nutrients for bone strength starting early in life is key.
osteoporosis

Nutrients for Osteoporosis Prevention

Choosing the right foods for osteoporosis prevention will provide the best nutrients for bone strength. Most people know the importance of enough calcium and vitamin D for strong bones. Furthermore, we know diets rich in bone building nutrients early in life allow for stronger bones later in life. We all start losing bone strength as we age. Think of your skeletal system as a calcium bank that you start withdrawing from around 40 years of age. For that reason, the more strength in your bones earlier in life, the better off you will be when old.

Top important nutrients for bone health are calcium and vitamin D along with vitamin K, C, and A. Some recent studies have pointed out some novel foods that could help prevent osteoporosis.

Dried Plums (aka prunes)

According to researchers, prunes have a unique nutrient and dietary profile that seem to have a beneficial effect. A variety of phenolic compounds in this fruit may be the factor that helps prevent bone loss. As little as 6 prunes a day might be therapeutic.

Olives

It seems consumption of olives as well as olive oil improves bone health. The beneficial effect of olives and olive oil may be attributed to their ability to reduce inflammation.  Human studies have revealed that daily consumption of olive oil could prevent the decline in bone density and improve bone turnover markers.

Fish

The Framingham Osteoporosis Study has shown that people who eat at least 3 weekly servings of fish gained hip bone mass density over 4 years compared to people with low to moderate fish consumption. The correlation is due to a number of dietary factors. Fish is high in protein and also omega 3 fatty acids, which are known to decrease inflammation.

Beer 

Researchers have long known that silicon may contribute to bone mineralization. Silicon is available from drinking water and some foods. But, the silicon content of beer is relatively high. Researchers have noted that dietary silicon intake in men and women aged 30-87 years of age was correlated with a higher bone mineral density.

Wine 

In particular, the Framingham Osteoporosis study identified red wine as particularly beneficial to bone in women. This led to the thinking that perhaps the resveratrol found in wine was the protective factor. Resveratrol is a naturally occurring polyphenol abundant in wine, grapes, and some nuts. Researchers cautioned that moderation was key because excessive alcohol had a negative impact on bone density.

And, for information on getting enough vitamin D for strong bones, here’s more information!

For more detailed information on osteoporosis, visit here.

Has diet improved your bone density scans? How did you change your diet to build more bone density?

Enough Vitamin D: A Challenge

Why is vitamin D important?

A large percentage of people worldwide are not meeting their vitamin D requirements.  Doctors and dietitians have known for decades that this nutrient is important for bone health, but the list of reasons why we need optimal levels is growing. Researchers note an extensive list which includes warding off cancer, heart disease, depression, dementia, certain skin diseases, and high blood pressure. As vitamin D receptors are everywhere in the body, any part of the body will be affected by a deficiency.

Why we aren’t getting enough to reach our goals?

It’s dubbed the “sunshine” vitamin because we can both make it from sun exposure and get it from food. Given the right circumstances, our bodies are very adept at making this vitamin. Ultraviolet light from the sun shines on a cholesterol compound on our skin, then that compound is transformed into a vitamin D precursor which gets absorbed into the blood. Over the next day, the liver and kidneys finish converting this compound to the active form of vitamin D.

The factors that interfere with making this vitamin are directly related to factors that block our exposure to the sun. Think sunscreen use, air pollution, city living, geography, and dreary winters. Even our skin pigment is a factor as darker-skinned people synthesize less vitamin D than lighter-skinned people.

Making vitamin D with sunshine

Food sources.

So if we cannot make it efficiently, how we can we get it from food? In terms of food sources, it’s interesting to compare sunshine vs. food. According to an old but very interesting 2009 AARP article (unknown author), you would need to eat the following amounts of food just to get the amount the amount of vitamin D your body makes in 10 minutes:

  • 6.5 pounds of mushrooms
  • 150 egg yolk
  • 3.75 pounds of salmon
  • 30 servings of fortified cereal
  • 2 pounds of sardines
  • 30 cups of fortified orange juice

Adult requirements.

While this is an interesting comparison, it is not a realistic diet strategy. The current adult recommendations for vitamin D intake are 600 IUs for those aged 19-70 and 800 IUs for those over 70 years old. Unfortunately,  foods with vitamin D are limited.  Some common foods with vitamin D content include:

  • 566 IU from 3 oz. swordfish
  • 440 IU from 1 tsp. cod liver oil
  • 400 IU from 3 oz. salmon
  • 228 IU from 3 oz tuna
  • 137 IU from 1 cup fortified orange juice
  • 120 IU from 1 cup fortified milk
  • 100 IU from 3/4 cup enriched cereals
  • 40 IU from 1 egg

As you can see, with limited sun exposure and limited foods with vitamin D, it can be challenging to have adequate vitamin levels. This is why supplementation is such a hot topic and why many people end up taking a supplement. The question is, “how much to take?”  A simple blood test determines if you need a supplement and how much to take.

What is your experience with vitamin D levels on your health and how did you determine you needed to supplement your diet?

For more thoughts on supplements for baby boomers.

Can Dietitians Write Prescriptions? Sort Of!

do dietitians write prescriptionsWhen I started out in college, I began as a premed student. Then, I took my first nutrition class. While I had been very interested in nutrition even in high school, my first college nutrition class made me quickly realize that there was a huge potential to “treat” people with food. No, dietitians do not write prescriptions, but we do a lot to help people take care of themselves. It was at that point I decided to give up the idea of being a doctor. Instead, I chose the path of dietitian.

What we do instead of writing prescriptions

Bottom line, in the traditional sense, dietitians don’t write medication prescriptions. But, we do effectively treat people with diet and lifestyle modifications that we “prescribe”. Most dietitians individualize those prescribed diet and lifestyle “prescriptions”. While we can’t heal everyone with our strategies, they are usually effective enough to impact the course of traditional physician management.

Here are just a few examples from my own practice:

  • “Ray” is referred for weight loss in order to be ready for a heart transplant. He loses 100 pounds, and in the course of the weight loss process, his cardiac enzymes return to normal. Now, he no longer needs that transplant.
  • Countless diabetics and prediabetics have been able to stave off treatment with medication by tweaking both diet and lifestyle. There are so many “dietary” bullets and lifestyle strategies that these patients can use which are effective and well tolerated. Why take medication if you can tweak your diet and physical activity to lower your blood sugar level?
  • Want to lower your blood pressure? Did you know that most of your sodium intake is from the restaurant and carry out food you consume? A dietitian can help you cut your sodium intake by making simple suggestions for alternative food options. Did you know your potassium intake can drastically affect your blood pressure? A dietitian can help you to increase your potassium intake as well!
  • And your cholesterol? If you are concerned about heart disease, there are so many dietary manipulations that can be suggested to lessen your odds of death from heart disease. Numerous clients have saved themselves with the proper diet and lifestyle recommendations that began in my office.

It’s a good feeling helping people with dietary and lifestyle “prescriptions”. While in some cases it is tougher to follow through on a dietitian’s suggestions than taking a traditional drug prescription, for those that can work with a dietitian, the benefits are boundless. You might even look and feel better, as well as be healthier!

To find a dietitian to work with in your area, check out the Registered Dietitian Finder from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.