What is Bone Health?
The biggest concern regarding bone health is avoidance of osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone.” Osteoporosis involves both the mineral (inorganic) and nonmineral (organic matrix, composed primarily of protein) components of bone. Bone is dynamic living tissue that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt, even in adults. Bone health is best determined by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) a technique that measures bone density.
What causes Bone Health?
Normal bone metabolism is dependent on an intricate interplay of many nutritional, lifestyle, and hormonal factors. Many dietary factors have been suggested as a cause of osteoporosis including: low-calcium-high-phosphorus intake, high-protein diet, high-acid-ash diet, high salt intake, and trace-mineral deficiencies, to name a few. Poor bone health is most common in postmenopausal Asian and white women. Other risk factors for include: family history of osteoporosis; physical inactivity; short stature, low body mass, and/or small bones; and never having been pregnant.
Although nutritional factors are important, physical exercise, consisting of one hour of moderate activity (e.g., walking, weight lifting, dancing, etc.) three times a week, has been shown to prevent bone loss and actually increase bone mass in postmenopausal women.
What dietary factors are important in Bone Health?
A high-protein diet is associated with increased excretion of calcium in the urine and increased risk for osteoporosis, too. Raising daily protein intake from 47 to 142 grams doubles the excretion of calcium in the urine. However, too little protein is also associated with poor bone health.
A diet high in salt or acid ash also causes calcium removal from bones and increases calcium loss in the urine. Therefore, it is important to avoid salt and eat an alkaline based diet. Basically, an alkaline diet is one that focuses on vegetables, fruit, nuts, and legumes while avoiding overconsumption of meat and dairy. Soft drinks containing phosphates (phosphoric acid) are definitely important to avoid.
Refined sugar intake also increases the loss of calcium from the bone. Regular consumption of refined sugar increases loss of calcium from the blood through the urine. Calcium is then pulled from the bones to maintain blood calcium levels as foods containing refined sugar generally do not contain calcium.
Green leafy vegetables including broccoli, kale, collards, and mustard greens, as well as green tea offer significant benefits to bone health. These foods are a rich source of a broad range of vitamins and minerals that are important to maintaining healthy bones, including calcium, vitamin K1, and boron.