“If you build it, they will come.” The famous line spoken in The Field of Dreams can do more than bring Shoeless Joe Jackson back to the ballpark, it’s the key to building strong, healthy bones. Bone health is dependent on two main sources: hydroxyapatites and osteoblasts. Hydroxyapatites can be simplified as referring to the minerals needed to build bone, particularly - calcium!
Osteoblasts are cells that do the actual work in building the bone, but they need the minerals to do so. Yet, the minerals won’t migrate to your bones without those bone-building workers present.
Preventing osteoporosis is all about keeping a strong bone mineral density. For each of us our bone mineral density follows a similar pattern. It continually increases until the ages of 20-30 at which point the decline begins. And once that decline hits the threshold of osteoporosis -> it’s the point of no return. We must be proactive! Understanding the bone mineral density pattern, there are two methods.
1.) Increasing the peak 2.) Slowing the decline.
The peak of this pattern can only be affected up until one’s mid-20s. If you are younger -> preventing osteoporosis later is dependent upon your actions now. If you’re past the peak point, don’t worry. The rest of this blog will discuss the steps to take in order to slow the rate of bone density decline in hopes to prevent osteoporosis later.
Knowing that both the hydroxyapatites and osteoblasts are necessary, let’s look into how to increase the amount of hydroxyapatites and osteoblasts in our body. The two main sources: dietary calcium and exercise!
Let’s break these down in more detail:
Recommended daily amount of Calcium is 1,000 mg (men) and 1,200 – 1,500 mg (women).However, the number that really matters is how much calcium is absorbed, not just how much is eaten. On average, adults need 300-400 mg of calcium to be absorbed each day.
Did you know that Calcium in milk is only about 30% absorbed?
However, dairy has one of the highest calcium absorption rates of any food group. Vegetable sources of calcium vary greatly: for example – Kale has a 49% absorption rate; whereas spinach has a mere 5% absorption rate. Unfortunately, kale has a relatively low calcium content per serving,; thus, compared to the high calcium content of milk – your body receives over 2x the amount of calcium in one serving of milk compared to one serving of kale.
So before you look at an item’s nutritional label to see the Calcium amount, get familiar with this chart below to know how much Calcium you will actually absorb:
Tips on Calcium absorption:
1) Get these essential vitamins!
Vitamin D: (necessary to absorb calcium from the gut)
* 10-15 minutes of skin exposure to sun each day is all you need!
* salmon and sardines are also excellent sources of Vit. D
Vitamin K: (necessary to keep calcium in bones and out of arteries)
*K1: found in almost all leafy green vegetables
*K2: grass-fed milk and dairy products
2) High protein diets can cause the body to lose more calcium. If following a high protein diet, increase your calcium consumption to get enough calcium to meet your body’s needs.
3) Wheat Bran. 100% wheat bran is shown to inhibit calcium absorption. To ensure calcium absorption, best to wait 2 hours between consuming calcium and consuming 100% wheat bran.
4) Bone broth. Bone broth won’t necessarily increase one’s calcium consumption by a substantial amount; however, it is an excellent source of collagen -> another very important mineral needed to grow healthy bones. Try to incorporate it into your meals.
5) Spinach. If relying on spinach for dietary calcium, cook it. Raw spinach inhibits the calcium present in the vegetable from being absorbed.
6) Supplements. – Do NOT rely on calcium supplements.
- Studies have found that calcium supplements higher than 500mg/day increased the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) by around 30%!
- Calcium supplements are also a leading culprit for those susceptible to kidney stones
7) Oral Contraceptives. Oral contraceptives deplete the body of various essential vitamins and minerals, one of these being magnesium. Numerous studies have found that the depletion of magnesium caused by oral contraceptives can lead to osteoporosis at an early age in females.
8) Salty foods. A diet high in sodium (table salt) causes the body to excrete more calcium and can lead to bone loss. Limit processed foods, canned foods, and amount of salt added to the foods you eat.
9) Caffeine. Coffee/tea/sodas contain caffeine, which can reduce calcium absorption and contribute to bone loss. Drink these in moderation.
10) Alcohol. Heavy drinking can also cause a decrease in bone mineral density. Limit alcohol to no more than 2-3 drinks/day for males and 1-2 drinks/day for females.
Osteoblasts, those bone building cells, are necessary to increase our bone mineral density. By increasing the number of osteoblasts, our bone building capability increases as well. So just how do we increase the number of those hard working cells – weight-bearing exercise! Through putting stress and load on the various bones in our body, the osteoblasts in that area increase. As we build up the osteoblasts, the dietary calcium comes to join the party. Hence, if you build them [osteoblasts], they [hydroxyapatites] will come. Put these two together and we are one step closer to a building stronger bones and preventing osteoporosis.
Weight bearing exercises can take many forms:
-lifting weights, running, plyometrics, brisk walking, etc…
Exercises that don’t cause stress on the joints; however, won’t bring about the beneficial effects needed to increase bone mineral density. Examples include swimming and biking.
Simple daily exercise to add – Heel Drops
*It has been found that doing 10 heel drops per day is as beneficial in preventing osteoporosis as 30 minutes of brisk walking.
-To perform a heel drop:
1) Stand on a flat surface
2) Raise up on your toes
3) Let yourself drop so that the heels forcefully impact the ground
4) Perform 10 heel drops per day
*As with any exercise program, it is recommended to consult with your physician or physical therapist prior to initiation to ensure overall health and safety.
1) Weaver C, Proulx W, Heaney R. Choices for achieving adequate dietary calcium with a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;70:543S-8S.
2) Paleo Leap. All About Calcium. Paleo Leap, LLC. 2015. Available at: http://www.paleoleap.com/calcium/ Accessed 25 March 2015.
3) National Osteoporosis Foundation. Food and Your Bones. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Available at: http://nof.org/foods. Accessed 25 March 2015.
4) Lee J, Hopkins Health Watch Columns. Things every woman should know about birth control. Virginia Hopkins Test Kits. 2015. Available at: http://www.virginiahopkinstestkits.com/everywomanbc.html. Accessed: 29 January 2015.