Osteoporosis: Nutrition Management and Prevention

Eating a variety of “bone healthy” foods can help prevent osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. Are you doing enough to support bone health? Simple diet and activity changes can have a dramatic impact on bone health.

What is osteoporosis? 

Our bodies are made up of 206 bones that are constantly going through a cycle of renewal. When old bone breaks down, new bone is formed. Osteoporosis can take hold when our bodies start to break down old bone faster than new bone can be made. This leads to a higher risk for bone fractures, back pain, poor posture and even loss of height. 

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Risk Factors That Cannot Be Controlled 

  • Age 
  • Sex 
  • Race 
  • Family history 
  • Hormone levels  
  • Steroid use 
  • Medical conditions such as cancer, liver disease, Celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis 

Risk Factors That Can Be Controlled 

First, diet is the number one strategy to prevent osteoporosis. The foods we consume on a regular basis can increase bone density and enhance calcium absorption. Calcium, vitamin D, and protein are the three nutrients that have the biggest impact on bone health. 

High Calcium Foods 

  • Milk
  • Fortified non-dairy milk
  • Yogurt  
  • Kale 
  • Tofu  
  • Figs 
  • Almonds  
  • Salmon 
  • Cheese 
  • Broccoli  
  • Nuts/Seeds 

High Vitamin D Foods

  • Milk  
  • Fortified non-dairy milk
  • Eggs/egg yolks  
  • Sardines 
  • Liver  
  • Fortified cereal  
  • Rainbow trout 
  • Tuna  
  • Oysters 
  • Mackerel 

High Protein Foods 

  • Eggs  
  • Meat 
  • Lentils  
  • Cottage cheese 
  • Quinoa  
  • Beans  
  • Fish 
  • Tofu  
  • Edamame 
  • Greek yogurt  
  • Peanut butter  

Second, exercise is another controllable risk factor that strengthens bones and improves balance. A minimum of 30 minutes of weight bearing activity, four to five times a week is encouraged to build bone density. This amount of physical activity can also protect the body from muscle loss, which can lead to feelings of tiredness, loss of balance, and overall weakness.  

Consider the following as ways to increase of dose of daily movement: 

  • Walking 
  • Dancing 
  • Tennis 
  • Free weights 
  • Exercise bands 
  • Yoga 
  • Chair exercises  
  • Stretching 

There is something for everyone. Exercise can be more fun if done with a partner or a group. If you are new to exercising, start slow and gradually build your stamina over time. 

Third, stopping harmful habits is another way to prevent osteoporosis. Habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and overconsuming caffeine can lead to a higher risk for osteoporosis. Changing behaviors to eliminate harmful habits can be very difficult. Seek help from your medical provider, if needed.  

How Much Calcium, Vitamin D, and Protein Is Needed Daily? 

Calcium 

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults older than 18 years of age is 1000 mg/day. 

For adults over age 70, the RDA goes up to 1,200 mg/day. This should be obtained primarily through food, due to improved absorption. If the RDA cannot be met through diet alone, then vitamin supplementation can be considered.  

Vitamin D 

The RDA for adult is 600 IU/day. For adults over 70 years of age, 800 IU/day is recommended. 

Protein 

Most adults need approximately 1 gram of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. (1 kg = 2.2 lb.) 

Conclusion 

Reducing the risk for osteoporosis should be started early and continued through the end of life. Establishing healthy habits and emphasizing adequate daily consumption of calcium, vitamin D and protein will contribute to the prevention of osteoporosis. Seeking help from a registered dietitian is encouraged if you would like to have your current diet evaluated and receive tips of how to improve your overall health and wellness.

Sarah Hammaker, RDN

Sarah Hammaker, RDN is a clinical dietitian working primarily in long-term care and acute rehabilitation hospital settings in Pennsylvania. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband and their four children. She loves running and being outdoors. Her hobbies include reading, planting and shopping.

If you have more questions about osteoporosis, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions. Click here to request a direct consultation with a dietitian today!


References:
Nutrients and Dietary Patterns Related to Osteoporosis. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400143/ Accessed on April 26, 2022 
What You Can Do Now to Prevent Osteoporosis. Available at  
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/osteoporosis/what-you-can-do-now-to-prevent-osteoporosis Accessed on April 26, 2022 
Nutrients for Bone Health. Available at https://americanbonehealth.org/nutrition/nutrientsforbonehealth/ Accessed on April 26, 2022 

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