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Osteoporosis Diet Tips and Supplements for Seniors

Osteoporosis Diet Tips and Supplements for SeniorsAlthough osteoporosis is a bone disease linked to aging, hormones and certain disorders particularly those affecting various glands, it also has a dietary component. Diet may not be the sole cause of osteoporosis but is a major contributing factor. This is especially significant in the elderly who often have poor dietary habits or suffer with malabsorption syndromes where the gut cannot absorb essential nutrients. Supplementation of vitamins and minerals have now become a cornerstone of osteoporosis prevention and even treatment but it should not detract from the effectiveness of diet in ensuring sufficient nutrition for bone health.

Calcium for Osteoporosis

The bones need a constant supply of calcium – a mineral that makes up the substance of the bone. It can be acquired in the diet through foods such as :

  • Dairy including milk, cheese and yogurt.
  • Leafy dark green vegetables like kale.
  • Fish with soft bones like tinned sardines and canned pink salmon.
  • Soya and soybean products like tofu.
  • Fortified foods particularly cereals like oatmeal.

Calcium is absorbed from the gut and requires the presence of another micronutrient – vitamin D. Although adequate calcium intake through food is possible, sometimes supplements may be a better option.

Calcium Dose for Seniors

  • Women up to 50 years of age = 1,000 milligrams per day
  • Men up to 70 years of age = 1,000 mg per day
  • Women older than 50 years = 1,200 mg per day
  • Men older than 70 years = 1,200 mg per day

Vitamin D for Osteoporosis

Most vitamin D is derived from sunlight exposure. When sunlight strikes the skin, it converts a substance known as 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). This is then further processed by the liver and kidneys to form calcitriol – the most biologically active form of vitamin D.

Normally this supply of vitamin D is sufficient for bone health. Additional vitamin D is also sourced from foods such as :

  • Oily fish
  • Eggs
  • Animal liver

However, in the elderly who have limited sunlight exposure either due to their geographical location or lack of outdoor activity, the food source of vitamin D may sometimes not be sufficient. Instead supplementation is advisable.

Vitamin D Dose for Seniors

There is no specific dose of vitamin D that is suitable for osteoporosis prevention. Doses between 600 to 800 IU appears to be sufficient. In severe vitamin D deficiency, the dose may be increased to as high as 4,000 IU.

Healthy Eating Tips for Osteoporosis

The dietary management of osteoporosis extends beyond just calcium and vitamin D although these are two most important nutrients for bone health. There is no specific osteoporosis diet but a healthy eating plan with balanced meals daily is advisable. Here are some points to bear in mind :

  • Protein is another important nutrient for bone health as much of the bone is composed of collagen. Fortunately protein can be sourced in adequate quantities from many of the same foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Carbonated beverages have a substance known as phosphoric acid which increases calcium loss in the urine.
  • Salt can cause slow loss of calcium over time. It should be used minimally in food and salty foods especially processed and preserved foods should therefore be avoided.
  • Caffeine promotes calcium loss from the bone and should therefore be drank in small quantities. Apart from coffee and tea, caffeine is also abundant in certain carbonated beverages like cola soft drinks.
  • Soy is a rich source of calcium but when consumed in excess, it can also contribute to weakening of the bones. The key to eating soy when at risk of osteoporosis is to practice moderation.

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