Strong bones

Eat­ing for in­fra­struc­ture

Element - - Contents - By Lani Lopez

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.

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