The month of May is usually thought of for flowers or Mother’s Day, but it is also National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Osteoporosis is a condition of “porous bones” that especially affects older women and is characterized by decrease in bone mass with decreased density and enlargement of bone spaces producing porosity and brittleness (1) causing easily shattered bones.
Bones are a living tissue so they are in constant flux of absorbing, storing, and excreting nutrients. Therefore, bones are dependent on the dietary availability of calcium for their overall maintenance. Low intake of dietary calcium will cause the body to take the available “store” of the mineral from the bones to be made available for physiological processes where calcium is necessary such as for blood clotting or the sodium-calcium pump, Diagram 1 (below), that are transmembrane ion transporters for maintenance of osmotic pressure.
WHA??!?!?… HUH??!?!?! ok, that was a mouthful.
In other words, to balance the pressure on either sides of a wall (membrane) there must be active transport of specific items. This is a pump which needs calcium to work, Diagram 2. Think of sea water on one side and fresh water on the other. In addition to the active transporter mechanism, the production of energy for lets say… the heart muscle contraction, calcium is needed to release the energy for the heart muscle to contract/pump.
There are no early warning signs of osteoporosis in young people. So PREVENTION is crucial. Some symptoms in older people are:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- A bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected
Unfortunately, some risk factors cannot be prevented such as sex – females are more likely to have it, race – Asian and Caucasian, family history/genetics – an immediate family member with osteoporosis increases chances, age – older >50yrs old, and body frame/size – smaller frames increases the likelihood. For more information on risk factors like hormones and dietary factors, check out the mayo clinic.
note: Calcium absorption in the body is dependent on vitamin D. They have a friends-with-benefits type of relationship.
Daily recommended intake of calcium (IOM):
|< 50 yrs||1,000|
|> 50 yrs||1,200|
Daily calcium intake calculator.
|< 70 yrs||1,000|
|> 70 yrs||1,200|
The bottom line is: calcium is needed in lots of other physiological processes and bones are a readily, available source of the mineral. The only other way to maintain this source in bone and in the blood is to get it in the diet and milk is NOT the only best source. High calcium foods are shown below with suggested guidelines for bone health from NOF:
1.Medlineplus dictionary osteoporosis.
National Osteoporosis Foundation – http://www.nof.org
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