Life expectancy at birth in 2011, as calculated by Eurostat, is a whopping 83 years of age for females and 78 years of age for men. With such increases in the average life span, it’s never been more important to mind your bones.
Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones, which causes them to fracture or break easily. One in four women and one in twenty men will suffer from a fracture due to osteoporosis by the age of 60.
There are many factors that can contribute to the development of osteoporosis including genetic factors, premature menopause, smoking, lack of exercise, irregular menstrual cycles and certain drugs and medications.
By considering each of these factors and by following the recommendations below, it is possible to maintain a good bone density throughout your life, or prevent a minor problem from becoming a major one:
1. Limit your animal protein
We need protein. It is the basic building block for all our cells and bones as well as our hair, skin and nails. However, protein, particularly animal protein from red meat, chicken and dairy products, can cause an acidic reaction in the body, requiring calcium to act as a neutraliser. When you eat too much protein, your reserves of calcium, which are contained in your bones and teeth, are summoned to correct the imbalance. The calcium is then eliminated from the body through your urine. By replacing at least some animal protein with vegetarian sources, such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy products, quinoa, etc, you can enjoy a wider variety of foods and mind your bones at the same time.
2. Check and correct your vitamin D
Sunlight is vital for the synthesis of vitamin D, which is crucial for the formation and maintenance of bones. Even with sufficient calcium, it is not possible to build bone without this vital vitamin. Twenty minutes of safe sun exposure per day is essential for sufficient vitamin D manufacture (avoid the hottest part of the day). Vitamin D is also found in fish and eggs. Ask your GP to check your vitamin D levels and aim to keep it at between 80nmol/L and 100nmol/L, through diet, supplements or safe sunlight exposure.
3. Watch your drinks
Tea, coffee, alcohol and soft drinks all have a detrimental impact on your bones, for varying reasons. As a result, it’s best to stick to a variety of herbal teas and water to protect your bone health.
4. Exercise
Exercise is extremely important in the prevention of osteoporosis. You need to ensure that you are doing some weight-bearing exercises (such as brisk walking, running, tennis, badminton, stair-climbing and aerobics) and also some resistance exercise to help improve your strength and balance. Don’t be tempted to put it on the bottom of your to-do list. It’s a priority for the prevention of osteoporosis, and a wide range of other health conditions.
5. Focus on the good stuff
There is a range of nutrients important to bone health, but besides vitamin D, the next two most important are calcium and magnesium. The best way to incorporate both into your diet is together, as a Bonny and Clyde of bone health! Sources for both include; nuts, especially almonds, seeds, especially sesame seeds (try tahini), green leafy vegetables and broccoli. Calcium is also found in small fish (with their bones), or tinned salmon, tofu and soy bean products. Magnesium is also found in wholegrains, seafood, apples and figs.
By making a few simple changes, you can ensure that your bones are strong enough to support you throughout your life.
If you are at risk or have a family history or osteoporosis, you may be interested in our bone health workshop, including a detailed session on how to test for, address and prevent osteoporosis, plus specialist exercises and physical techniques from physiotherapist Audrey Redmond, on Saturday 7th November in Dublin 6. If you’d like more detail, please contact on us on (01) 402 0777, email, or log on to
Nutritional Therapist