Ingrid Pilz, Naturopath
Osteoporosis. It’s a big word that many people don’t think has much relevance to their lives now. After all, isn’t it a disease that only old women get?
There are actually a lot of misconceptions about osteoporosis – a bone condition that makes bones weak and brittle. It’s true that osteoporosis does affect more than half of New Zealand women over 60. But it also affects one third of men this age too – in fact, it’s estimated to cost New Zealand more than $1 million each year. And although it tends to appear in older people, its roots go right back our lifestyles and eating habits in our teens and 20s.
Although your bones appear to be hard, unchanging body parts, they’re actually living tissue that’s constantly being built up and broken down. Up until your late 20s or early 30s, your bones grow gradually stronger and denser if they get enough Calcium and other minerals.
At this point, though, they reach what’s known as “peak bone density” – the maximum strength and density that they’ll ever have. After this, even with enough Calcium, your rate of bone breakdown starts to eclipse your rate of bone buildup. This means you can only either maintain or lose bone mass as you age. And that’s why it’s important to have a good Calcium intake while you’re still in your late teens and 20s.
How much Calcium your bones get isn’t just about the Calcium in the food you eat. It’s also about how easily your body can absorb and use the Calcium that you take in. For example, your bones need weight-bearing exercise to really make use of the Calcium. And some kinds of foods can actually interfere with Calcium absorption, e.g:
So if you can’t do without your daily caffeine hit, drink the odd glass of wine, or don’t exercise as often as you’d like? It’s probably a very good idea to start thinking about your Calcium levels now.
If you want to keep your bones healthy now and into the future, you need to look at your daily Calcium intake. Good dietary sources of Calcium include:
If you don’t eat a lot of these foods on a regular basis, you may need to consider supplementing with a quality, high-potency Calcium supplement.
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