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Nutrition 101: May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month

May 2, 2019

Osteoporosis is a condition in which our bones weaken as we age and are more likely to break. As we age, broken bones become more serious. When we are younger and in our peak bone-building years, osteoporosis is not typically a big concern. The good news is there are plenty of lifestyle changes we can make throughout our lifetime to improve bone health.

Teens and Twenties

These are the optimal periods for building bone mass. The focus should be on consuming adequate dietary sources of calcium and reducing lifestyle choices that could have a detrimental effect on bone health (binge drinking and smoking). Extreme dieting and other disordered eating patterns have been shown to have negative consequences on bone density by decreasing variety in the diet and stripping the bones of minerals to support the body’s needs.


  • Encourage children and teens to meet the RDA of of 1300 mg of calcium per day.
  • Avoid risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking and yo-yo dieting.


By your thirties, bone density has most likely reached its peak. Our focus should switch from maximizing bone acquisition to maintaining strong bones. Reducing caffeine consumption could be a good strategy for maintaining bone density as caffeine consumption is known to increase urinary calcium losses.


  • Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet. 
  • Heavy caffeine consumers should be aware for the need for increased calcium consumption.

Forties and Beyond

Bone density continues to decrease in both men and women during these decades. Declining protein intake among older adults may play a role in loss of bone density. Studies have shown that higher protein intake is associated with higher bone density. Supplementing with calcium shows no benefit if protein intake is low.

Along with increasing risk for hypertension, high sodium diets increase urinary calcium excretion. Decreasing sodium consumption is important in this stage of life as typical sodium consumption for people in their forties is 65% higher than the RDA.

Aside from dietary changes, weight-bearing exercise has been shown to be one of the best ways to preserve bone mass.


  • Start or continue a regular exercise routine.
  • Be mindful of sodium consumption.
  • Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods.

The rate of bone loss begins to increase rapidly when women reach menopause. This is reflected in the RDA for calcium for adults over the age of 50. It increases from 1000 mg to 1200 mg.  Typically women of this age are more likely to take calcium supplements but researchers have noted an association between calcium supplementation and increased risk of cardiovascular events in men and women over the age of 50.

How to Help 

Turn to food sources that are rich in calcium. Leafy greens such as kale and collard greens are good sources of both calcium and vitamin K. Vitamin K can help move calcium out of arteries and into bones. Check out this link from the National Osteoporosis Foundation to find other calcium-rich foods to help you meet your daily goals. https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/a-guide-to-calcium-rich-foods/

A surprising source for bone health, prunes! Many recent studies are showing prunes are the perfect package for getting many nutrients needed to maintain bone health. Just one serving (5-6) have been proven to help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women. Prunes contain the perfect combination of:

  • Vitamin K-improves calcium balance and promotes bone mineralization
  • Magnesium and zinc- keeps bones strong
  • Copper-maintains structural connective tissue
  • Potassium and boron- regulate bone building

Apps: Food4Bones is an apple and android friendly app with a focus on osteoporosis. The app has a database of osteoporosis friendly recipes from the National Osteoporosis Foundation and also provides educational resources for both osteoporosis and osteopenia.

To find out more information on how to eat healthy, contact your UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown Dietitians at (641) 854-7530 or MT_dietitians@unitypoint.org. Find out more information about UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown’s Outpatient nutrition services at: https://marshalltown.unitypoint.org/media/cms/Dietitian_Services_C888AAD436DEF.pdf

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