Bone Health and how to keep it
Posted on 1 Dec, 2021
Running cool down image.

It’s fair to say that bone health often gets overlooked. When was the last time you considered it? Here at My Vital Metrics we think people should pay more attention to their bone health. One of the things that a DEXA can do besides body composition is quickly and reliably tell you what your bone density looks like. In fact, this is the primary purpose of DEXA scans in the medical community.

The aim of this article is to show you how important it is to support bone mineral density and everyone at every stage of life can take action to improve this.  Let’s start by having a look at bone health across the lifespan:

The majority of your bone mass is already accrued by roughly 20 years of age. It starts to decline earlier in females and more rapidly around menopause once the protective effect of oestrogen is taken away.

Who does Osteoporosis affect?

Osteoporosis affects one out of three post menopausal women and their remaining lifetime risk of fragility fractures exceeds that of breast cancer.  So its safe to say that post menopausal women should be more aware of their bone health.

The risk of osteoporosis and/or fragility fractures can be reduced through healthy lifestyle changes. These include adequate dietary intakes of calcium, vitamin D and protein, regular weight-bearing exercise, reduction in alcohol intake and avoiding smoking.

The process when bone is gained or lost is called ‘bone modelling.’ 

Bone resorption –  how bone is broken down. 

Bone formation –  how your body replaces bone tissue.  

What are the primary factors that influence bone health? 

The non-modifiable factors that affect bone health are family history, age, sex and ethnicity.  The modifiable factors are ‘mechanical load’ (exercise), sleep, diet and smoking. 

Exercising into middle age and older age is a powerful intervention to maintain bone mass.

Exercise in childhood and adolescents seems to provide protection to bone health for longer periods over the life cycle. 

The positive effects of exercise on bone come from multi-directional movement and high impact exercises. 

a cheese counter at a local market

From a nutrition point of view, if you are insufficient or deficient in circulating levels of Vitamin D in the blood then it is important to get sufficient. 

Supplementation may play a role in this process because it is difficult to attain Vitamin D from dietary means. If you want to investigate Vitamin D levels further then speak with your GP. 

Adequate intake of calcium plays a role in supporting bone health: 

19 – 64 years of age – 700mg a day. 

11 – 18 years of age – 800mg in girls and 1000mg in boys. 

Other nutrients important to support bone health through the life cycle are: 

  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin K2
  • Vitamin C

Some great example of whole food sources of these are below: 

Dairy Sources

Sources Quantity Amount of calcium
Milk 200ml 240mg
Cheese 30g 220mg
Yogurt 120g 200mg

Sources of Mag, Vits K2, C

Kale

Legumes

Spinach

Tofu

Cabbage

Seeds

Watercress

Whole Grains

Romaine Lettuce

Oily Fish

Nuts

Bananas

 

Non-Dairy Sources

Sources Quantity Amount of calcium in
Sardines (with bones) ½ tin (60g) 258mg
Pilchards (with bones) 60g 150mg
Tinned Salmon ½ tin (52g) 47mg
Wholemeal Pitta 2 100mg
Broccoli 85g 34mg
Spring Greens 75g 56mg
Calcium Fortified Cereal 30g 130-150mg

One thing we know is that bone does not like chronic low levels of energy availability.  

Energy availability is the dietary energy left over to the body after the energy expended from exercise has been accounted for. 

That means if you are exercising very frequently and not meeting energy needs from a dietary intake point of view (calories) be very careful as this may affect bone health over time. 

It is always best to speak with your GP first. If you are engaging in a lot of exercise, especially endurance exercise it may be worth speaking with a Sports & Exercise Registered Nutritionist (SENr) as well. 

How do I assess the status of my bones?

Popping in for a 3 minute DEXA scan with us will allow you to assess bone mineral density.  

Please be aware that we do not offer the service as a diagnostic tool, we simply present your bone mineral density via two important scores. 

A Z-score compares your bone density to the average bone density of people of your own gender and age.

A T-score represents how close you are to the average peak bone density. Meaning how do you differ from the bone mass of an average healthy 30-year-old adult.

Below are some additional resources that might allow you to read further:

Resources: 

Bone Health during the Menopause Transition and Beyond:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6226267/pdf/nihms-1506835.pdf

Nutrition and bone health in women after the menopause:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2217/WHE.14.40 

Nutrition & Athlete Bone Health

https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s40279-019-01161-2.pdf

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