Dr. Fuhrman Dr. Fuhrman

New studies on osteoporosis

Today ended a large conference on osteoporosis. A summary of the new research presented can be found here. The actual press releases are here.

Some highlights from the congress:

  • Rapid weight loss can be a risk factor for osteoporosis. Obesity is also a risk factor.
  • Maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy and infant bone growth influence future fracture risk.
  • Calcium supplements are only effective in the presence of additional vitamin D at doses of 800 international units or above.
  • Research confirms the importance of calcium, vitamin D and protein in building bones.
  • Exercise in childhood and adolescence may stave off osteoporosis.
  • Cigarette smoke, both primary and secondary, can weaken your bones and increase the risk of fractures.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation, who organized the congress, also has an interesting fact sheet about osteoporosis. A few facts that surprised me or that I thought were particularly important:

  • Osteoporotic fractures in men account for more hospital bed days than those due to prostate cancer.
  • A 50 year old woman has a 2.8% risk of death related to hip fracture during her remaining lifetime, equivalent to her risk of death from breast cancer.
  • Weight in infancy is a determinant of bone mass in adulthood
  • Fruit and vegetable intake was positively associated with bone density in a study in men and women.
  • In a study in elderly men and women, higher dietary protein intake was associated with a lower rate of age-related bone loss.
  • Lactose intolerance has been shown to be associated with low bone mass and increased risk of fracture due to low milk (calcium) intake

If you just take milk away from a standard western diet, you likely do not get enough calcium. Vegans do not necessarily have a low calcium intake, though. Green vegetables are an excellent source, as are beans and nuts. These are also great sources of protein. It is important to keep this in mind though. Vegans do not automatically get enough calcium and protein. This is not something we should just brush off as a myth from the dairy industry. If you eat too much processed food, sugar (even natural sugars) and fat, you risk not getting enough calcium and protein. Osteoporosis is a serious disease and if you are (going to be) thin, you are at a higher risk than the general population. Eat your greens and exercise!

June 7, 2006