Eating for infrastructure
You are losing bone and the older you get, the more you lose.
Healthy bone is dynamic; living, changing tissue that is constantly being resorbed (broken down) and rebuilt. This is a natural process and if we keep it in balance, a healthy one.
Not supporting bone-building leads to unhealthy decline in bone mineral density (BMD) and potentially serious problems like osteoporosis, characterised by loss of BMD, chronic bone weakness and serious health problems including fractures and breaks.
Osteoporosis is a familiar condition, but that it affects only women is a myth. US research estimates that up to 50% of women and 33% of men will experience an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime.
Healthy bones require a life of care. The good news is that as bones are constantly renewing, they reward the care we give them.
Our bone life cycle
We reach peak bone density somewhere between 20 and 30 years. Thereafter the decline increases – after age 40 bone mass declines by 1-2% a year.
To defend against this loss we have two allies: exercise and nutrition. Resorbing and rebuilding bones demands mineral and nutritional support. New bones need strength, which is gained by exercise.
Walk to better bones
Many studies, even of people in advanced years and with osteoporosis have shown that the difference between good and bad bone health can be as simple as a brisk 15-20 minute walk daily.
Optimal exercise is a regular mix of cardio, such as walking, swimming or cycling, with weight-bearing exercise.
Any weight use forces our muscles to contract, stressing the bone and prompting the bones to build improved density.
The key to weights is not how much you lift, but how often. Even very light weights, such as hand-held or ankle weights used while walking, are as effective as weight-lifting in a gym.
Regular and consistent cardio and weight bearing exercise is the most effective mix, not just preventing bone-loss but reversing it too, even into old age.
Eating for infrastructure
Bone building is a resource-hungry task that demands nutrients, especially calcium, protein, vitamins D, C, B6, B12, folate and riboflavin.
Eating foods rich in these (see Must-eat bone foods), and a diet based on regular, generous servings of vegetables and legumes, can deliver much of what the body needs.
Healthy eating is always the best option, but for many of us supplementation is a more realistic alternative if not, as I’ll explain, the ideal answer.
The must-have supplements will contain the vitamins listed above, together with glucosamine and chondroitin. And, if recent lab-based research proves accurate, resveratrol is also important, showing exciting results in building bone-density.
Supplements though, are only as good as our ability to absorb them.
Nutrient absorption needs healthy digestion. Pay attention to food intolerance. Foods that inflame the stomach prevent us absorbing their goodness. Even unhealthy processed foods that may not make our digestive system obviously react can be destructive. Refined sugars, for example sugary processed food and drink, cause an increase in urinary excretion of calcium, stripping out this much-needed nutrient.
Maintaining good gut flora is a priority. Eat acidophilus yoghurt, tablets or see your naturopath to ensure you absorb all the goodness you consume.
For a detailed list of bone friendly foods subscribe to the Element newsletter at elementmagazine.co.nz and receive Lani’s update this month.