Submitted by Joyce Beckner, RD, CD, clinical dietitian at Franciscan St. Anthony Health - Michigan City
Bone health means that the skeleton is strong enough to withstand the strains of everyday living. The principle disorder of bone strength is osteoporosis, a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile. Maintenance of healthy bones has two basic requirements: weight-bearing exercise and adequate nutrition. The most important nutrients are calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium and protein.
Weight-bearing exercise and nutrition work together to promote bone health, neither is adequate alone. A high calcium/vitamin D intake without exercise does not improve bone mineral density. Neither does exercise without extra calcium. A healthy diet includes all nutrients as nutrients do not work independently in the body-they work as a team.
When I counsel patients regarding the prevention of osteoporosis, I recommend the following goals:
Shoot for this much every day: 1,000 mg age 19-50; 1,200 if over 50
What you need to know: Do not take any more than 2500 mg. per day and men shouldn’t exceed 1500 mg to protect the prostate.
Shoot for this much every day: 400 IU (international units) up to age 60; 800-1,000 IU over 60
What you need to know: If you take a supplement look for vitamin D3, shoot for a 1,000 IU a day.. It is safe to take up to 2,000 IU a day. Some researchers say 4,000 IU.
Shoot for this much every day: At least 60 grams for women; at least 80 grams for men
What you need to know: Good sources of protein are lean beef, fish, pork, dry beans and legumes, diary products.
Shoot for this much every day: 5 or more servings
Exercise (weight bearing)
Shoot for this much every day: 30 minutes
What you need to know: 60 minutes would even be better
Shoot for this much every day: 2-3 cups of milk
What you need to know: Carbonated and caffeine beverages are not a concern unless they replace milk
Rich natural sources of calcium around 300 mg. are 1 cup of milk and 1.5 ounces of cheese. A good choice of calcium around 200 mg. is yogurt. There are some foods fortified with calcium such as orange juice and cereals that vary from 100-300 mg. or more.
While it is difficult to get 1200 mg. calcium from food alone, supplements may be helpful. The two common types of calcium supplements are calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Oyster shell calcium is another name for calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is typically cheaper than calcium citrate. Unfortunately calcium carbonate is not absorbed by the body as well as calcium citrate and as a result you will not get as much benefit from the same quantity. Calcium is best absorbed if taken at 500mg. at one time. Calcium citrate can be taken at any time but calcium carbonate from supplements is best absorbed after a meal.