By J. E. Davidson
Osteoporosis is a silent disease, often not apparent until you fall and break a bone. Eight out of ten osteoporosis patients are women, and we are at the greatest risk after menopause, when our ovaries stop producing estrogen, a hormone that protects us against bone loss.
Bone is a living tissue, constantly growing, breaking down, and being replaced by new bone tissue. Our bone density peaks when we are 25 to 30 years old, at which point our bone tissue begins breaking down faster than it is replaced. Not getting enough calcium and Vitamin D during the teen years can contribute to less than optimal bone development and leave us more susceptible to osteoporosis, with brittle bones that fracture easily as we age.
Many research studies tell us that adequate amounts of Vitamin D and calcium are vital for bone health, but many other nutrients are potentially beneficial for our bone health as well.
The building block of the human body, protein builds tissue, helps fractures to heal, and gives our immune system a boost. Getting enough protein is especially important for older people. Studies show that elderly people who get adequate protein in their diet are more likely to have a good medical outcome if they suffer a broken hip bone. Complete proteins contain all the amino acids the body needs to create new proteins, and can be found in meat, poultry, and dairy products. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more amino acids, and are found in legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. By eating a variety of incomplete proteins, even those on a vegetarian diet can get an adequate amount.
The body doesn’t store amino acids the way it does fats and carbohydrates so it is necessary to have an adequate daily intake of protein-rich foods. A long-term, high-protein diet of more than a few weeks can have adverse effects on bone health, however. The acids released by the body when digesting proteins are buffered by calcium, which may be pulled from bone tissue. Those on a low carb diet need to make sure that they get plenty of calcium in their diet.
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