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  • Writer's pictureSarah Skelton

Bone up on calcium!

We know how regular exercise can help you build and maintain strong

bones and lessen the risk of osteoporosis in a previous article, but we

must think about the role healthy eating plays.

“As we get older our bone density reduces, which can result in osteoporosis – the medical term for brittle bones. “Osteo” means bones and “porosis” means porous.”

Although the majority of our skeleton is laid down during the teenage years,

bones continue to strengthen until our mid-30s. After this, we naturally begin

to lose bone, and for women there is a marked increase in bone loss around

the time of the menopause. The female hormone oestrogen offers some protection against osteoporosis, but after the menopause oestrogen levels fall causing

the bones to thin more quickly, increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis.

But it isn’t just a “woman’s problem” – men get osteoporosis, too, with 1 in 12

men over the age of 50 being affected.


Adults aged between 19 and 50 need 1000mg of calcium each day to keep their

bones strong. Beyond the age of 50 adults need to increase their calcium intake to 1200mg daily. Most people meet their calcium needs from a varied diet including

milk and dairy products, but bread fortified with calcium, leafy green vegetables,

soya beans, tofu and fish such as sardines all provide calcium. However, calcium is more easily absorbed from milk and dairy products and we suggest you have

450ml skimmed or semi-skimmed milk a day, which meets the requirement.

Vitamin D

This aids the absorption of calcium from food. It’s one of the fat-soluble vitamins

that can be stored in the body, so you don’t need it every day. Oily fish, meat, eggs

and fortified breakfast cereals all contain vitamin D, but most of the vitamin D we

need is made in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. 15 minutes a day

during the summer provides enough stored vitamin D to last all winter.

Lifestyle interventions

Smoking, a lack of exercise, and drinking more than safe recommended levels of alcohol all increase the risk of osteoporosis developing. Drinking too many fizzy drinks can also affect the bones as the phosphoric acid used in carbonation has been shown to reduce calcium absorption.

Build up your bones

Using your daily milk allowance will help ensure you have enough dietary calcium

to help prevent the onset of osteoporosis and keep bones strong and healthy.

Make sure you continue to exercise, too. Our article “osteoporosis and exercise’

gives more interesting facts and shows you the best way to keep yourself active and protect your bones.

Remember that to maintain healthy teeth and bones you should aim to eat three

portions of calcium-rich foods a day. -1 portion is: 200ml milk, 30g cheese or 150g yoghurt.

Finding suitable milk or milk products is easy but cheese is a different matter just be mindful that cheese will have a higher fat level and therefore if you are watching your weight you must be mindful of the extra fuel you are consuming.

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