Most people don’t realize the real reason for many
fractures of the hip, spine and wrist. Bone loss, or
Osteoporosis, contributes to 90% of hip fractures. Persons
with disabilities which involve limitation of movement are
especially prone to bone loss due to inactivity, prolonged
casting or splinting, or paralysis. Osteoporosis occurs over
a long period of time and often goes undetected until the
fracture occurs. Nutrition is a key factor in maintaining
bone health and quality of life.
When thinking about osteoporosis, calcium,
especially from dairy products, is what comes to most
people’s minds. It was once thought that after young
adulthood calcium was of questionable benefit but newer
research and recommendations suggest otherwise. Good calcium
intake early in life can reduce hip fractures by 50% in later
life. It has also been found that lifetime attention to good
calcium intake decreases the incidence of osteoporosis at an
advanced age. In 1994 the National Institutes of Health put
together a panel of calcium experts and came up with new
recommendations that cover the life cycle.
New Calcium Recommendations(From the 1994 National Institutes of Health
|Age||Calcium (mg/day)||# Dairy Servings to|
800 – 1,200
2 – 4
1,200 – 1,500
4 – 5
25-65/men and 25-50/women
3 – 4
Pregnant and Lactating Women
Postmenopausal on Estrogen
3 – 4
Estrogen) & adults >65
The amount of dietary calcium
recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is
designed to provide the optimal amount of calcium needed at
different ages and stages of life.
Just knowing you need more calcium is not
enough. Calcium consumption, and intake of vitamin D that
helps absorption, is often low, especially in American
females. Many people needlessly stop eating or drinking dairy
products out of concern for their cholesterol levels.
Although whole milk dairy products contain saturated fat that
can increase blood cholesterol, a switch to low fat or skim
milk dairy products lowers fat but still provides the same
calcium. Others avoid milk because of lactose intolerance.
Many of these people can consume some amount of dairy
products, i.e. cheese or yogurt without intestinal distress.
The enzyme lactase is helpful and available in a commercial
product called Lactaid. Lactaid drops, tablets or milk help
many people resume eating dairy products comfortably. Others
may have heard how many milligrams of calcium they need but
not know what foods provide it and in what amounts. Here are
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 cup low-fat fruit flavored yogurt
1-1/2 oz. Swiss cheese
1-1/2 oz. cheddar cheese
1 cup skim milk
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cooked pudding
1/2 cup frozen vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup tofu (w/calcium
Some people don’t like dairy products or
don’t eat them, i.e. strict vegetarians. For these people,
calcium fortified foods like orange juice (about 160 mg per
3/4 cup juice), bread and cereals are an option. Others may
need to take a calcium supplement upon the advice of their
doctor or registered dietitian.
While trying to build up your bones with
calcium, keep these other things in mind:
Vitamin D is needed for good calcium
absorption and is found in vitamin D fortified milk,
egg yolks and fatty fish. For Vitamin D to become
biologically active in all of its forms, exposure to
sunlight is required [vitamin D reacts with sunlight
in the skin to become vitamin D2 –especially
important to remember with someone who is spending
much time indoors].
Excessive amounts of caffeine, salt
and alcohol can decrease calcium absorption.
Physical activity and weight bearing
exercises help prevent bone loss in all age groups.
Your physician or physical therapist can help you
design the best and safest exercise program for your
Osteoporosis and related fractures affect
25 million people in the United States at a cost of 10
billion dollars per year. As we look for ways to control
healthcare costs and keep people healthy, low cost
interventions such as adequate nutrition and appropriate
lifestyle changes make a great deal of sense.
For more information you may wish to
contact these resources:
1150 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-4603
for Nutrition and Dietetics
Consumer Nutrition Hot Line:
For people with lactose