Osteoporosis: two effective measures to stop bone loss

Osteoporosis affects one in three women and one in ten men over the age of 55. A diet rich in plants and low in red meat reduces the risk of being affected and slows the progression.

Osteoporosis is characterized by bones that become increasingly porous and fragile. Increasing over time the risk of fracture, especially in the hips, vertebrae and wrists. Although the causes of osteoporosis are complex, diet plays a key role in the risk of being affected by this bone degeneration. 99% of all the calcium present in the human body is present in the bones where it plays a role of “cement” which binds the various components of the bone, thus giving it its force and its resistance. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake (which ensures calcium absorption) is a key parameter in maintaining bone mass density.

Acidity, blood pH: calcium diverted from the bones to save the body

In addition to their structural role, bones also play an important role in maintaining the acid-base balance, i.e. the pH of the blood. When the blood is too acidic, the calcium contained in the bones is released into the bloodstream to neutralize this excess acidity. Thus, it maintains the pH at its physiological level of 7.4. However, excessive use of the calcium present in the bones to counteract the acidification of the blood can lead to the appearance of osteoporosis in the longer term.

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Studies suggest that the high incidence of osteoporosis in Western countries may be related to this phenomenon. It is known that diets rich in animal protein, such as those in our countries, lead to excess acidity in the blood and therefore greater excretion of calcium. Even if the food of the inhabitants of the Western countries generally contains sufficient calcium, this contribution is lost by an excessive excretion of this mineral. Moreover, North American women, who consume nearly 1000 mg of calcium daily, are ten times more affected by hip fractures than those of certain Asian countries who consume less than 500 mg per day.

Two measures to put in place against osteoporosis

From a dietary perspective, two main factors can help reduce excess acidity in the blood and therefore calcium excretion:

– Reduce the consumption of red meats.

Women who follow a Mediterranean type diet, rich in olive oil and low in red meats, have a higher bone density than those who have a Western type diet

– Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Unlike meats, the consumption of plants such as fruits and vegetables leads to an alkalinization (decrease in acidity) of the blood. This therefore does not promote the excretion of calcium. Moreover, several studies have shown that a diet rich in plants was associated with higher bone density. In addition to their positive impact on blood pH, plants provide a high vitamin K content. This vitamin plays an important role in stabilizing bone structure.

The prevention of osteoporosis is therefore another example of the benefits associated with a diet based on the abundant consumption of plants, combined with a reduced intake of red meats.

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Willett, WC. Eat, drink and be healthy: The Harvard medical school guide to healthy eating. Free Press, New York p.163Kontogianni et al. Nutrition 25: 165-171

Lanham-New, SA Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 83: 1254-1255


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