Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.See all posts »
Experts Stress the Importance of Diet Over Supplements for Healthy Bones
Calcium, an essential mineral for for building and maintaining strong bones, is one of the most popular dietary supplements in the U.S. even though it can be obtained exclusively from food. Because bone loss is accelerated in the first year or two of menopause, physicians typically advise women to increase their intake of dairy foods and/or take a daily calcium supplement of at least 1000 mg every day to help prevent bone loss. But you’ll be surprised to learn that calcium may not be the answer at all.
In their book, Building Bone Vitality: A Revolutionary Diet Plan to Prevent Bone Loss and Reverse Osteoporosis - Without Dairy Foods, calcium, Estrogen or Drugs, authors Michael Castleman, and Amy Lanou, Ph.D., a senior nutrition scientist for the Physician’s Committee on Responsible Medicine, argue that the highest incidence of hip fractures have actually occurred in countries where dairy consumption was the highest. Moreover, the science doesn’t support dairy’s usefulness in reducing the risk of fractures. They point out that of the 86 studies that have examined the connection between calcium supplementation and bone health, two-thirds showed no impact on bone health above 500 mg. So if fortifying our bodies with added Calcium is old, conventional thinking, what is the new answer when it comes to preserving bone vitality as we age?
The Importance of pH Balance in Healthy Bones
In Dr. Lanou’s view, it’s not the intake of calcium we should focus on, but rather a dietary pattern that keeps calcium in the bone and helps us hang on to the bone strength that we already have. She believes the optimum diet is one that reduces acidity in the blood, or put another way, that helps make the blood more alkaline to promote the growth of new bone cells. This type of diet is high in fruits and vegetables (she recommends 6-9 servings daily) and low in acid-producing foods such as meat, dairy products (eggs, cheese), sugar and processed foods. She also recommends walking (or equivalent exercise) at least 30 minutes every day.
Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD, the author of Better Bones, Better Body, is a medical anthropologist and bone health nutritionist (she advocates natural bone health), who also believes that alkaline balance is critical for bone health. It “is essential to the regeneration of bone health, immune competence, and overall well-being,” she explains on her website, BetterBones.com - a great resource for you to learn what it takes to maintain a healthy skeleton as we age.
Here are some of the good, alkaline-forming foods that both of these experts recommend:
- Dried fruit
- Sweet Potatoes
- Wild Greens
Wendy Hoffman writes about women’s health at www.menopausetheblog.com