No matter what age you are, nutrition plays a key role in bone health. Strong bones mean you’ll likely remain mobile, independent, and fracture-free well into old age, say experts in a new report in the journal Osteoporosis International. There are three keys to lifelong bone health, they say:
- Children and adolescents need to achieve their peak bone mass.
- Adults need to avoid premature bone loss and maintain a healthy skeleton.
- Seniors need to prevent and treat osteoporosis.
Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake matter throughout life, the experts said. While children get most of their calcium from milk and other dairy products, in the last few decades, milk consumption has declined on a global scale. Studies have proven that many adults and seniors don’t meet the recommended amount of calcium they need in their diets. Our bodies put calcium to use in our skeleton in the form of hydroxyapatite, a mineral that strengthens bones. Vitamin D levels are also alarmingly low worldwide, especially in youth. Vitamin D plays two key roles in the development and maintenance of healthy bones. It assists calcium absorption from food in the intestine and ensures correct renewal and mineralization of bone. People get vitamin D from foods and sun exposure.
In addition to diet, lifestyle factors like alcohol intake, smoking cigarettes, or being outside a healthy weight range can increase the risk of bone fractures.
“This new report shows just how important nutrition is for our bone health throughout life,” says Cyrus Cooper, co-author and chair of the International Osteoporosis Foundation Committee of Scientific Advisors. “In fact, nutrition plays a key role in the development of a healthy skeleton even before birth. Healthy maternal diets as well as adequate vitamin D levels are associated with greater bone mass in the offspring.”
While calcium and vitamin D are keys to good bone health, other factors also matter, including:
- Adequate protein intake
- Adequate intake of vitamin K, vitamin A, the B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc
- Exercise, including weight-bearing exercise
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Avoiding overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol