The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 50% of women and 25% of men, over the age of 50, will have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetime.1 The best protection against osteoporosis is a combination of weight-bearing exercise and excellent nutrition.
Bone strength is directly related to muscle strength.
The most effective way to strengthen bone and protect against osteoporosis-related fractures is by increasing muscle strength.2 Weight-bearing exercises are ideal for improving balance and building bone strength.3 While swimming and biking are good for cardiovascular conditioning, they will not help protect against osteoporosis like running or lifting weights can.4 In women, who are at a risk for osteoporosis, back strengthening exercises are especially beneficial and can provide lasting protection against spinal fractures.5 For women, in addition to doing weight-bearing exercises, I also recommend wearing a weighted vest for a few hours each day for stronger bones. A weighted vest can be worn, not only during exercise, but also while you work or shop and bend, stand, and move throughout the day. Wearing a weighted vest has other benefits as well, such as burning more calories, increasing core strength and stabilizing muscles, thus improving balance and decreasing the risk of falls.6-9
Certain foods supply the body with the nutrients necessary to build and maintain healthy, strong bones. Other foods promote the breakdown of bone and osteoporosis.
The best foods for bone health are whole plant foods. Studies show that individuals with the highest consumption of fruit and vegetables have the strongest bones, and bone health-promoting effects of flavonoids, plum/prune polyphenols and additional phytochemicals are now being investigated.10-12
- Greens, seeds, and beans are healthful calcium sources: A diet full of natural plant foods provides the calcium required to build strong bones. Green vegetables in particular are rich calcium sources. For example, one four-ounce serving of steamed kale has just as much calcium as one cup of milk. Broccoli, bok choy, sesame seeds, and garbanzo beans are also excellent calcium sources. Furthermore, the body absorbs about 50% of the calcium in green vegetables, compared to only 32% of the calcium in milk.12
- Green vegetables for vitamin K: Vitamin K is a crucial component for maintaining healthy bones. Higher intake vitamin K1 is associated with bone health, and in supplementation trials using vitamin K2 (which is low in plant foods), fracture risk was greatly reduced.14,15 It is important to get both K1 from green vegetables and K2 from a supplement.
- Nuts and seeds for magnesium: Nuts and seeds are rich in magnesium, an essential mineral, which is used for the formation of bone tissue.16
- Beans, nuts, and seeds for plant protein: For most people following a Nutritarian diet, maintenance of bone mass, muscle mass and muscle strength with age can be achieved easily with a Nutritarian diet that includes seeds, nuts and beans. For healthy bones, it is important to ensure adequate protein intake in mid-life and especially after the age of 70.17 Although this is routinely accomplished with protein-rich plant foods, animal products may be added if muscle mass starts to fall too low on a completely vegan diet.
The worst foods for bone health are foods that promote calcium loss:
In Osteoporosis Protection for Life, I have put together a comprehensive approach that combines dietary advice, supplements, and special bone-strengthening exercises, which can provide significant improvements, when compared to drug treatment, for osteopenia and osteoporosis. This DVD provides the information that is needed to put an effective osteoporosis prevention plan into place and take action. Just a few minutes a day, or fifteen minutes twice a week, is all that it takes to complete the exercises that can keep your bones strong—for life.
- Salt promotes the excretion of calcium in the urine.18,19
- Caffeine also contributes to urinary calcium loss. High caffeine intake is associated with increased bone loss and osteoporotic fractures.20,21
Soda, including diet and decaffeinated soda, is associated with bone loss. Soda consumption increases parathyroid hormone (PTH) in the blood, which increases blood calcium concentrations by stimulating bone breakdown. This increased blood calcium is then excreted in the urine.22-24
1. National Osteoporosis Foundation: What is Osteoporosis? [http://nof.org/articles/7]
2. Rubin C, Turner AS, Muller R, et al: Quantity and quality of trabecular bone in the femur are enhanced by a strongly anabolic, noninvasive mechanical intervention. J Bone Miner Res 2002;17:349-357.
3. Marques EA, Mota J, Machado L, et al: Multicomponent training program with weight-bearing exercises elicits favorable bone density, muscle strength, and balance adaptations in older women. Calcif Tissue Int 2011;88:117-129.
4. Running not swimming or biking is best kind of loading exercise for childrens bone growth. 2004. EurekAlert!. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-10/aps-rns100504.php Accessed February 2011.
5. Sinaki M, Itoi E, Wahner HW, et al. Stronger back muscles reduce the incidence of vertebral fractures: a prospective 10 year follow-up of postmenopausal women. Bone. 2002;30(6):836-841.
6. Greendale GA, Salem GJ, Young JT, et al: A randomized trial of weighted vest use in ambulatory older adults: strength, performance, and quality of life outcomes. J Am Geriatr Soc 2000;48:305-311.
7. Greendale GA, Hirsch SH, Hahn TJ: The effect of a weighted vest on perceived health status and bone density in older persons. Qual Life Res 1993;2:141-152.
8. Shaw JM, Snow CM: Weighted vest exercise improves indices of fall risk in older women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 1998;53:M53-58.
9. Snow CM, Shaw JM, Winters KM, et al: Long-term exercise using weighted vests prevents hip bone loss in postmenopausal women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2000;55:M489-491.
10. Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, et al: Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:727-736.
11. New SA, Robins SP, Campbell MK, et al: Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health? Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:142-151.
12. Sacco SM, Horcajada MN, Offord E: Phytonutrients for bone health during ageing. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2013;75:697-707.
13. Weaver CM, Plawecki KL: Dietary calcium: adequacy of a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1238S-1241S.
14. Feskanich D, Weber P, Willett WC, et al: Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:74-79.
15. Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, et al: Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med 2006;166:1256-1261.
16. Rude RK, Singer FR, Gruber HE: Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency. J Am Coll Nutr 2009;28:131-141.
17. Devine A, Dick IM, Islam AF, et al: Protein consumption is an important predictor of lower limb bone mass in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:1423-1428.
18. Teucher B, Dainty JR, Spinks CA, et al: Sodium and bone health: impact of moderately high and low salt intakes on calcium metabolism in postmenopausal women. Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2008;23:1477-1485.
19. Teucher B, Fairweather-Tait S: Dietary sodium as a risk factor for osteoporosis: where is the evidence? The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2003;62:859-866.
20. Rapuri PB, Gallagher JC, Kinyamu HK, et al: Caffeine intake increases the rate of bone loss in elderly women and interacts with vitamin D receptor genotypes. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;74:694-700.
21. Hallstrom H, Wolk A, Glynn A, et al: Coffee, tea and caffeine consumption in relation to osteoporotic fracture risk in a cohort of Swedish women. Osteoporos Int 2006;17:1055-1064.
22. McGartland C, Robson PJ, Murray L, et al: Carbonated soft drink consumption and bone mineral density in adolescence: the Northern Ireland Young Hearts project. J Bone Miner Res 2003;18:1563-1569.
23. Mahmood M, Saleh A, Al-Alawi F, et al: Health effects of soda drinking in adolescent girls in the United Arab Emirates. J Crit Care 2008;23:434-440.
24. Larson NS, Amin R, Olsen C, et al: Effect of Diet Cola on urine calcium excretion. Abstract P2-198. In ENDO; 2010.