MyMT™ Blog

Eating for your bones: The most essential nutrients for your bone health in menopause and beyond.

What nutrients increase bone density? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately and one that I’ve been sharing with women on my coaching programmes. With osteoporosis affecting one out of three post-menopausal women, their remaining lifetime risk of fragility fractures exceeds that of breast cancer, mentioned a 2014 review of nutrition and bone health in women after menopause (Rizzoli et al, 2014). Menopause is the biological gateway for these changes to occur, hence I think that this is a wake-up call for all of us, don’t you? Afterall, menopause is the biggest risk factor for osteoporosis. 

World Menopause Day is October 18th, 2021 and the theme that the International Menopause Society has chosen is Bone Health. So, here I am with you all, talking about bone health and nutrition. If you missed my article on bone health and exercise, then you can still access this HERE. Don’t be shy – I’ve written these articles with myself in mind too. With an elderly aunt who is completely bent over when she walks, it’s a sobering reminder, that my bone health matters.  Approximately 60-80% peak bone mass is determined by genetics. And with bone health data out of America indicating that around 10 million Americans over the age of 50 have osteoporosis and another 34 million have low bone mass, your bone health matters too. 

I think that we all know that healthy nutritional habits combined with exercise should be encouraged in order to maintain bone health, but what exactly does that mean? What type of food should we eat?  What specific exercise should we do? (this is covered in my article on exercise) and of course, can we actually turn around our bone health as we age? 

These are the questions that I am most interested in, so if you want to know about the essential nutrients for your bone health, then please have a read when you get time. 

Numerous nutrients are needed for bone health, not ‘just’ calcium or Vitamin D. And yes, real food is better in terms of your absorption of these nutrients, rather than just supplements. So, let’s explore what nutrients and foods your beautiful, ageing bones need.  

CALCIUM

800mg up to 1200mg a day, every day. If you are an exerciser and doing weights, then take the higher-amount approach. Calcium is a major component of muscle contraction and if you have restless legs, muscle cramps or muscle aches and pains, then explore your calcium intake. Just also be aware that emerging heart health research also suggests that food is better than supplements. (Rizzoli et al, 2014). And don’t forget that if you have GUT HEALTH issues, then join me on the MyMT™ programmes as I have a moudle called ‘Restore your Grateful Gut’ – if you have gut health concerns, then the role of Vitamin D may change, because Vitamin D is not just the sunshine vitamin – it is needed to help your gut absorb calcium. 

VITAMIN D

Calcium absorption and balance in your body relies on Vitamin D. Whilst 80-90% of Vitamin D is obtained through your skin from exposure to sunlight, you have to remember that during menopause, your skin is also losing oestrogen receptors, and the efficiency of Vitamin D absorption declines too. For those of you going into winter, then explore a Vitamin D supplement, but also increase your intake of oily fish, mushrooms, and some fortified dairy products. 

The key thing to remember with Vitamin D is that a defiency decreases the amount of calcium absorbed from the intestine and this then increases the activity of the parathyroid hormone (PTH). This hormone is activated to try and rebalances the decrease in serum calcium by increasing calcium resorption from the bone. But a higher level of activity by your Parathyroid hormone, can cause more hot flushes, so this is why I’m always saying that your hot flushes aren’t ‘just’ about your ovaries. Vitamin D matters too so get it tested when you can and have a listen to my video below when you get a moment. 

PROTEIN

Protein accounts for approximately 50% of bone volume and about 1/3 of its mass. Collagen helps in the process of building new bone cells and re-modelling bones through the modification of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. As I mention in my programmes, we don’t need a lot of protein, but we do need a minimum of 0.8 – 1.0gm/kg/day and up to 1.2=1.4gm/kg/day for those who are weight training. One of the main concerns that women have as they age, is whether to have meat sources of protein or plant proteins, but relatively new research suggests that a mix of dietary proteins is beneficial but watch the acid-load of the diet. A high acid load, places strain on your kidneys, and then to reduce the acidity, your bones and teeth leach calcium and phosphorus to re-stabilise the internal environment. In the Western world, the main contributors to the acid load from the diet are meat, fish, milk and dairy products, and eggs, followed by cereal grains. Conversely, base-producing diets (alkaline diets), characterized by relatively higher intake of fruits and vegetables, are rich in organic anion salts that are metabolized to alkaline salts such as bicarbonate, which also helps your bones. 

OTHER LESSER KNOWN NUTRIENTS FOR BONE HEALTH

Numerous vitamins and minerals are associated with our bone health independent of Vitamin D and calcium. These  nutrients include magnesium,  Vitamin K, silicon and boron (Price et al, 2012). 

Magnesium is often regarded as a nutrient which is helpful for managing hot flushes, (yes it is), but it is also necessary for helping with our ageing muscles, blood vessels and bones. A study of women with osteoporosis in Israel, reported significantly increased bone mineral density with 250mg of magnesium supplementation compared with a control group who did not take magnesium supplements. Dietary sources of magnesium include almonds, cahsews, brown rice, peanuts, kidney beans, black-eyed beans and lentils. 

Silicon is another important contributor to our bone health. Silicon deficiency is associated with poor skeletal development as it plays a role in the initiation of the mineralisation process. Dietary sources of silicon include whole grains, carrots and green beans. 

Vitamin K has several different forms, but Vitamin K1 adn K2 are the naturally occurring forms which we need because low Vitamin K impacts bone turnover and bone strength. Whilst Vitamin K intake needs to be managed if women are on blood thinners, if you aren’t, then look at your sources of Vitamin K from kale, collard greens, fresh spinach, brussel sprouts, iceberg lettuce and prunes. You need a minimum of 90 micrograms daily. 

As we age, it makes sense that we have a renewed focus on bone health. Nutritional needs for bone health can be met with proper food choices. Women who are vegetarian or vegan as well as thinner and leaner must also be careful to monitor their nutrients as well as protein intake, especially if they are doing a lot of heavy lifting-type exercise. 

The risk of osteoporosis and/or fragility fractures can be reduced through healthy lifestyle changes mentions a review of nutrition and bone health in women after menopause. These changes include adequate dietary intakes of calcium, vitamin D and protein, regular weight-bearing exercise, reduction in alcohol intake and smoking cessation.

Furthermore, the European guidance for the diagnosis and management of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women recommends a daily intake of at least 1000 mg/day for calcium, 800 IU/day for vitamin D and 1 g/kg body weight of protein for all women aged over 50 years. Hence, the review concluded that the development of programmes that encourage lifestyle changes (in particular balanced nutrient intakes) are therefore essential for the reduction of osteoporosis risk. (Rizzoli et al, 2014). I couldn’t agree more. 

If you are ready to make that change, then have a listen to my video below, which explains my October SALE (save NZ$100) on the online 12 week MyMT™ Circuit Breaker programme for thinner/ leaner women. I hope you can join me. 

Dr Wendy Sweet (PhD) MyMT™ Founder & Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. 

References: 

Lohana, C. & Samir, N. (2016). Risk Management of Osteoporosis in Postmenopausal Women.  Global Journal of Health Science, Vol. 8, No. 11; 36-44

de Villiersa, T. & Goldsteinb, S. (2021). Update on bone health: the International Menopause Society White Paper 2021. Downloaded from: https://www.imsociety.org/education/world-menopause-day/#whitepaper 

Rizzoli R., Bischoff-Ferrari H., Dawson-Hughes B., Weaver C. (2014). Nutrition and bone health in women after the menopause. Womens Health (Lond). 10(6):599-608. doi: 10.2217/whe.14.40. PMID: 25482487.

Shams-White M., Chung M., Fu Z., Insogna K., Karlsen M., et al. (2018). Animal versus plant protein and adult bone health: A systematic review and meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. PLOS ONE 13(2): e0192459. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192459

Sözen, T., Özışık, L., & Başaran, N. Ç. (2017). An overview and management of osteoporosis. European journal of rheumatology4(1), 46–56. https://doi.org/10.5152/eurjrheum.2016.048

“If you have ever wondered if there was a clear easy plan to follow to sleep all night, reduce hot flushes and prevent or reduce your weight gain during menopause, then ‘welcome’ – you’re in the right place now.”

Discover how either of my two Menopause Transformation programmes might help you too or take my Symptoms Quiz below… 

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