Superstars may soon be trading in their milk moustaches for pitchers of freshly squeezed orange juice. A new study out of Texas A&M University has made the bold claim that citrus may actually be the key to osteoporosis prevention. In a controlled study, they fed an abundance of orange and grapefruit juice to a group of lab rats. The results showed a surprising improvement in bone density.
The researchers believe this success was due to the high concentration of antioxidants in the juice, but more research is on the way.
This is not the first time that antioxidants have been pointed to as the missing link to bone health. Over the years, study after study has revealed that maintaining strong bones isn’t as much about the intake of calcium as it is about how well we absorb it, and at what level we are able to keep it in our bones. This is where a host of other nutrients come into play. Magnesium, Fluoride, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Sodium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, and Antioxidant Vitamins (such as C & E) each play a vital role in calcium absorption and retention. In fact, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans has actually been shown to reduce the risk for osteoporosis more than the consumption of dairy products.
In addition to eating an array of colorful natural foods there are several other lifestyle factors, which have been proven to aid in the prevention of osteoporosis. The informational website www.GoDairyFree.org highlights the following top recommendations:
- Absorb Some Vitamin D – In 2003, researchers at the Channing Laboratory out of Harvard Medical School found Vitamin D to be the true powerhouse, reducing the risk for hip fracture by 37%. This massive 18-year prospective analysis followed over 72,000 postmenopausal women. Oddly enough, they found that neither a high-calcium diet nor milk was associated with a reduced risk for hip fracture. Approximately 15 minutes of sunlight on your skin per day is typically enough to meet your Vitamin D needs. If you obtain little to no sun exposure, supplementation may be necessary.
- Exercise – Use it or lose it isn’t just a saying when it comes to bones. Exercise is recognized throughout the medical community as essential for keeping the calcium in its place.
· Put simply, active people tend to keep calcium in their bones, while sedentary people lose it.
- Drink Alcohol in Moderation – Alcohol is believed to weaken your bones by reducing the body’s ability to build new bone and replace normal losses. Of course, water is best, but if you must indulge, make sure you have no more than 1 or 2 servings of beer, wine, or liquor per day.
- Cut the Caffeine – Several studies have shown a strong link between high caffeine intake and accelerated bone loss. If you need that jolt, try to keep it to one or two cups a day of caffeinated beverages.
- Keep Sodium Intake Low – Limiting sodium to 1 to 2 grams per day will encourage calcium retention. Sodium hides in processed foods, so stick to whole and natural foods whenever possible.
- Don’t Smoke – Just in case you needed one more reason to quit the habit, there is a strong link between smoking and a higher risk of fracture and calcium loss.
- Understand Medical Conditions – Steroid medications, such as prednisone, and hormone imbalances have been indicated as potential causes of bone loss and fractures. These risk factors should be discussed with a doctor.
Although studies are revealing that calcium is not the magic pill for osteoporosis prevention, most medical professionals concur that it is still an important piece of the puzzle. After all combined with phosphorous, calcium composes approximately 80% to 90% of the mineral content of our bones.
For the millions of people who follow a dairy free or limited lifestyle, due to lactose intolerance, milk allergies, chronic disease, or personal choice (such as vegan or anti-inflammation diets), calcium consumption may be a concern. Luckily, calcium is abundant in many natural foods including several dark leafy greens, beans, and even figs. An extensive food chart at the informational website www.GoDairyFree.org lists dozens of non-dairy calcium sources. In addition, you will find advice on the ins and outs of selecting the best calcium supplements
For those who are concerned that non-dairy sources of calcium are of lesser quality than dairy sources, look no further than the enormous 12-year Harvard study of 77,761 female nurses. As published in the American Journal of Public Health (1997, volume 87): “…women consuming greater amounts of calcium from dairy foods had significantly increased risks of hip fractures, while no increase in fracture risk was observed for the same levels of calcium from nondairy sources.”