Diet & Bone Health
Eating a well-balanced and complete diet is an essential part of maintaining strong, healthy bones. It is not enough to merely include adequate calcium in one’s diet; other minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium can also affect bone health. In addition, sugar, refined grains and flour, caffeine, and alcohol can all significantly impact bone health. Therefore, it is important to embrace exercise and overall good health in accordance with a well-balanced diet to maintain healthy bones.
Calcium & Magnesium
Both calcium and magnesium are very important minerals for building strong bones and teeth and supporting many essential body functions such as contracting and relaxing muscles, sending and receiving nerve signals, regulating blood pressure and heart health, and releasing hormones.
Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, are all good sources of calcium and magnesium. Additionally, salmon and sardines, some nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds are also good sources for these minerals.
Of course, vitamin D is important to help these minerals in building good, strong bones. Sources of vitamin D include dietary supplements as well as getting adequate sunlight every day.
Today, the average American eats approximately 150 pounds of refined sugar every year.1 This refined sugar displaces other nutrient-rich foods, which would help with bone health. By eating as much sugar as we do, we get less calcium, magnesium, and other vitamins including zinc, copper, vitamin B, and other nutrients that are essential for overall health.
Eating this much sugar can also directly deplete our bodies of calcium. The increased intake of sugar has been shown to increase the excretion of urinary calcium. It has also been associated with increased kidney stones. Other studies have demonstrated that patients with kidney stones have an increased risk of osteoporosis. It appears that with this increased excretion of calcium, the calcium is no longer available for use elsewhere in the body and can lead toward weakening of the bones.
Furthermore, eating so much sugar has led to other diseases resulting from the stress of excess insulin production, as well as excess inflammation in the body. Elevated sugar in one’s diet increases the release of cortisol level by the adrenal gland, and long-term increased cortisol levels have been shown to be associated with osteoporosis.
Refined foods, particularly grains from which the outer hull has been removed, have fewer nutrients than their wholegrain counterparts. This refining process results in a significant loss of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, vitamin B, and folic acid. The lack of vitamins and minerals not only can lead toward osteoporosis but also can toward other diseases associated with poor nutrition.
Additionally, many people have been discovered to have gluten sensitivities. Gluten sensitivities to grains in particular have led toward inflammation along the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and poor absorption of minerals and other nutrients. This poor absorption of minerals as well as inflammation has been associated with increased osteoporosis and poor bone health.
Caffeine is found in many products including coffee, tea, sodas, and other beverages. Caffeine has various effects in the human body that include an increased susceptibility to some diseases in some individuals. Some diseases attributed to or associated with caffeine include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, fibrocystic disease, elevated cholesterol and blood sugar, hypertension, and headaches. Caffeine has effects throughout the body and has been associated with bone loss. Studies have demonstrated that drinking caffeinated coffee has increased the excretion of calcium in the urine within a few hours after drinking the coffee. The increase of calcium excretion could mean that there is less calcium available for the bones which could lead to osteoporosis.
The chronic drinking of sodas has been associated with osteoporosis. This may be due to the sugar content of the sodas as well as to the relatively acidic composition of sodas. The acid within the drink often needs to be buffered. A source of the buffer of the acid is the bicarbonate available in the bones.
A diet very high in proteins has been shown to increase calcium excretion in the urine. In addition to calcium being excreted in the urine, proteins cause calcium loss because calcium is mobilized to buffer the acidic breakdown products of proteins. Hence, consuming high levels of proteins may negatively affect bone health since there is less calcium available for bones.
The nicotine and other compounds present in tobacco lead to osteoporosis as well. Not only does smoking increase cortisol levels, but smoking can also damage small vessels, leading to poor blood supply and fewer nutrients reaching the bones.
In conclusion, many dietary factors contribute to bone health. Favoring the consumption of the positive factors and avoiding the over-consumption of the negative dietary items, one has the opportunity to increase bone heath and help avoid the onset of osteoporosis.
By Michael Dr. Hasz, MD, FACS
- How much sugar do you eat?. (2007, July). Retrieved from http://www.dhhs.state.nh.us/dphs/nhp/adults/documents/sugar.pdf