Both men and women experience bone loss with increased age, however it appears that women are more affected. A review concerning gender differences between men and women concluded that women start to lose bone at an earlier age and at a faster rate compared to men; women over 50 were found to have a four times higher rate of bone related disease compared with men (1).
When it comes to bone health, menopause is an important time. A cohort study of 1902 women found that bone loss accelerates substantially in the late peri menopause and post menopausal years (2).
So what factors should we consider in order to support optimal bone health during our lives and particularly in late peri menopause and post menopause?
Calcium is an important mineral for many body functions, including healthy bones. Most calcium in the body is stored in the bones and keeps them strong. Our bodies continually remove and replace calcium from the bones, this is a natural process; however if the body starts to remove more calcium than it can replace, this can lead to weaker bones that are more prone to breaking.
Dairy products such as milk are considered good sources of calcium, however, there are many other sources, including nuts, leafy green vegetables and fish.
Calcium is well understood for its benefits to bone health, however, newer research now understands that calcium alone may not provide optimal support to bone health.
So what else is important?
Magnesium is a vital nutrient and is involved in hundreds of processes in the body, including helping to maintain healthy bones. About 60% of magnesium is stored in the bone; it is thought that magnesium contributes to bone health directly but also indirectly by influencing a hormone which regulates calcium turnover in the bones (3).
Dietary sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, avocados, beans, nuts, wholegrain and brown rice.
Vitamin D is a source of much media interest at the moment and is believed to be a common deficiency in the UK. Like most nutrients, Vitamin D has many functions in the body and is vital to maintain health. For bone health, adequate Vitamin D levels in the blood are required for calcium absorption in the intestine (4).
There are some food sources of vitamin D which include fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), dairy products, eggs and liver, however the best source of Vitamin D is the sun. Vitamin D supplements are also available.
Due to deficiency being common in the UK, it may be useful to get your Vitamin D levels tested; you can then decide on the best course of action to increase Vitamin D levels and support your bones and overall health. Your GP or Nutritional Therapist can organise a Vitamin D test for you.
Vitamin K may be less well known than other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D for bone health, however, it appears to be important. There are two dietary types of Vitamin K; K1 and K2. It is thought that Vitamin K2 is required by a hormone called Osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is found in bone and is important for the maintenance of bone mass (5).
Vitamin K2 is found in meats from grass fed animals, egg yolks and fermented foods such as soy (natto), kefir, sauerkraut and fermented dairy such as Gouda and Brie.
As you can see, maintaining health bones is about more than just calcium. Many other diet and lifestyle factors should also be considered to support bone health. For more information on supporting your bones please contact us or book a FREE 15 minute consultation.
1 Alswat, K. A. (2017). Gender Disparities in Osteoporosis. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 9(5), 382–387. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr2970w
2 Finkelstein, J. S., Brockwell, S. E., Mehta, V., Greendale, G. A., Sowers, M. R., Ettinger, B., … Neer, R. M. (2008). Bone mineral density changes during the menopause transition in a multiethnic cohort of women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 93(3), 861–8. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2007-1876
3 Castiglioni, S., Cazzaniga, A., Albisetti, W., & Maier, J. A. M. (2013). Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions. Nutrients, 5(8), 3022–33. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu5083022
4 Holick, M. F. (2004). Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 80(6 Suppl), 1678S–88S. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15585788
5 O’Connor, E. M., & Durack, E. (2017). Osteocalcin: The extra-skeletal role of a vitamin K-dependent protein in glucose metabolism. Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, 7, 8–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JNIM.2017.01.001