Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease among humans. It is caused by either or both of failure to build bone and failure to reach peak bone mass as a young adult, or due to bone loss in later life. There is reduction of bone mass, deterioration of its architecture, loss of strength and increased susceptibility to fracture. A healthy bone is compact compared to a “loose or wide-holed” osteoporotic bone. The height can be affected too. Difficulty in balance and breathing as well as back pain can be felt. Some with osteoporosis lose some height and assume a stoop-over posture termed as kyphosis.
The causes of osteoporosis can be many – genetics, low bone mineral density, early absence or cessation of menstruation, early menopause (<45 years old), low estrogen in women or testosterone in men, alcoholism, intakes of calcium and vitamin D, alcoholism, not being physically active, cigarette smoking, poor health or being frail, being a Caucasian or Asian woman, older years, small body size and thin bones in women. Let us dwell on vitamin D and calcium.
Calcium is the number one nutrient needed in bone development and strength. Ninety-nine percent (99%) of calcium in the body is deposited in bones and teeth and the 1% is circulating in the blood. The peak of deposition is during the growing up years particularly during adolescence. Thus, with inadequate calcium intake, the amount deposited will be less. The body’s priority is to maintain blood calcium such that when calcium intake is low, the body will withdraw from bone and teeth deposits. Eating calcium-rich foods even after age 30-35 or after when calcium cannot be deposited in the body anymore, will maintain calcium levels in the blood thus prevent withdrawal of calcium from the bones and teeth. Bones with less calcium are likened to a house post with a less than standard amount of cement in proportion to the gravel and sand.
Vitamin D has the main role of increasing calcium in the blood by promoting absorption in the gut and reabsorption by the kidneys and stimulating formation of bone cells. Vitamin D can be absorbed from the food we eat by the intestines then undergo conversion into active vitamin D. In the skin, vitamin D can be activated by sunlight. Thus, people who have inadequate sun exposure, those who live in areas of the earth that do not receive much sunlight, the dark-skinned should receive vitamin D supplementation.
Do you drink milk? Do you eat yogurt, cheese and other milk products, dried and small fishes? These are rich in calcium. Sardines, meat, fish, poultry and eggs are good sources. Dried beans, oatmeal and vegetables namely spinach, okra also provide calcium. Spinach, okra, sardines, white and soybeans, tuna, and salmon are rich in vitamin D.