The building blocks of strong bones

The building blocks of strong bones

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Every 5-6 minutes, someone is admitted to an Australian hospital with an osteoporotic fracture With this rate set to rise, it’s never been more important to boost bone health, writes naturopath Kate Ferguson.

Calcium: the essential bone mineral

Calcium is essential for bone health. It provides structure and strength for our bones and we need it for normal bone development and bone maintenance. We store calcium in the bone.

Our body gets calcium from the food we eat. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables and sesame seeds. 

If the amount of calcium in the blood is low, because the diet doesn’t provide enough calcium, calcium is extracted from the bones.

How much is enough? The recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium for adult men and women is 1000 mg – 1300 mg per day.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D3 is produced in the body after exposure of the skin to UVB rays. A major function of vitamin D is regulation of calcium and phosphorus levels by stimulating their absorption from the intestines, reabsorption in the kidneys and release of calcium from bones back into the blood. Where vitamin D is deficient, intestinal absorption of calcium can be halved. 

How much is enough? The adequate daily dietary intake (AI) of vitamin D is 5-15 micrograms.

Move it or lose it

Just as we need to exercise and keep moving to maintain our muscles, moving is essential for healthy bones too. The insides of our bones have a structure that is similar to honeycomb. This inner structure is lined with bone cells that continually renew bone tissue by a process called bone remodelling, ensuring new healthy strong bone in place of old and damaged bone.

Bone remodelling allows for bone strength to be maintained in response to an increased load and decreases with a reduction in load. So how do we increase the load and maintain the health of our bones? Simply by moving and working our muscles against gravity with regular weight-bearing exercise including walking, jogging, dancing, resistance training and tennis.

Fish oil

A regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish may be beneficial for bone health. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the association of fatty acids in bone accumulation and peak bone mass in 78 young men. 

The study suggested that omega-3 fatty acids – especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – may positively influence bone mineral accrual and bone mass density. While further trials and research into the role of omega-3 from fish and bone health are needed the study results suggest potential for fish oil in the maintenance of healthy bones.

References available on request