A major issue for post-menopausal women
But older men are also at risk
Osteoporosis is an age‐related chronic disease. It’s typified by diminished bone mass and micro-architectural deterioration that leads to reduced bone quality and strength. This disease affects more than 14 million Americans, especially post-menopausal women. Lack of ovarian hormone production after menopause leads to bone loss. Persons with osteoporosis have a greater risk of spine and leg fractures. Osteoporosis will be increasingly common in the aging US population. Standard preventive measures include adequate consumption of calcium and vitamin D and weight-bearing and strength-building exercises.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends that women age 51 and older consume 1,200 mg of calcium per day. For vitamin D, the recommended daily intake is 800 – 1,000 international units. For men over age 50, the NOF recommends 1,000 mg of calcium intake per day, increasing to 1,200 mg per day at age 71. For most Americans, dairy products are the chief source of calcium and vitamin D (not including that created through sun exposure).
A recent review evaluated different types of physical activity with respect to their ability to prevent osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. The two most effective ways to stimulate bone metabolism are impact activities and resistance exercises. Impact activities, such as running, jumping rope, and stair climbing, appear to be the most beneficial. Resistance exercises, such as weight lifting, exercise bands, and plyometrics, seem to be somewhat less beneficial. Dynamic, short-duration, high-intensity movement likely provides greater benefit than longer-duration, low-intensity movement. Strengthening back extensor muscles seems to be especially valuable in strengthening the spine. Walking on level surfaces at a moderate pace is less effective than impact activities or resistance exercises for preventing osteoporosis, although walking improves general health. Faster walking on rocky surfaces would probably provide greater benefit that slower walking on level surfaces. High-impact aquatic exercise, yoga, and tai chi can improve body balance and reduce falls, thus mitigating some of the effects of osteoporosis.
Over the past two decades, animal and human studies have suggested that fruit and vegetable consumption, particularly dried plum (aka prunes), may prevent and reverse loss of bone mass and strength. In 2011, researchers reported that post-menopausal women who consumed 100 grams (3.6 ounces) of dried plum daily showed significantly increased bone mineral density in the spine and arm and significantly decreased levels of two bone turnover markers.
Five years after the one-year study ended (during which time the subjects didn’t eat dried plums), 20 participants returned to the laboratory for follow-up bone testing. Women who consumed dried plums five years previously retained higher bone mineral density than the women who didn’t eat dried plums. This suggests that eating dried plums can have long-lasting benefits for bone health.
By the way, the 16 dried plums in the accompanying photo weigh 100 grams. Interestingly, the research subjects who ate 100 grams dried plums each day for a year didn’t gain weight, even though the dried plums accounted for about 10 percent of their total energy intake. The subjects may have eaten less of other foods without consciously deciding to do so.