Thanks to the classic “Got Milk?” advertisements, many of us are aware that calcium and vitamin D support bone health, but have you ever thought about the foods that cause the opposite effect?
It is estimated that almost 33% of the population in developed countries has poor bone density. Most of these are women over 65 years of age. Often the first sign of poor bone density is a fracture, and at that point, it becomes much more difficult to improve bone health.
In fact, fractures not only make it more difficult to improve bone health – but at a certain age, bone fractures can lead to a permanent loss of independence for seniors.
Bone density can decrease with age and with rapid weight loss
People lose bone mass and density as they age, (especially women after menopause), which is the primary reason why fractures, falls and accidents are more prevalent among these populations.
This loss of bone mass is because with each passing year our bones lose calcium, vital amino acids and other minerals required to provide strength and density to our skeletal system.
Image Reference: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/615_Age_and_Bone_Mass.jpg
Obesity, weight loss surgery and bone health
Bone strength adapts to meet the demands of the musculoskeletal system due to being obese.
The health of your bones can be evaluated by measuring bone mineral density (BMD). Low bone mineral density is a well-known risk factor for fracture and is therefore associated with increased risk for morbidity.
Bodyweight is one of the strongest predictors of bone mineral density (BMD). Mechanical stimulation of bone leads to bone growth, and conversely, rapid weight loss can cause an increase in bone loss. Lean body mass and fat mass are both independent determinants of bone mass. Excess weight is detrimental to bone health, and therefore, obesity itself may predict fractures.
An increasing amount of studies have shown reduced bone mineral density in patients after bariatric surgery, with the surgical procedure being a suspected cause; however, studies are showing that lifestyle factors – especially diet – may have a negative impact on bone mineral density as well.
A DEXA scan measures the BMD of a patient, which is then compared to standardized measurements obtained from healthy populations matched for sex. Low scores obtained from a BMD scan may lead to a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Some threats to your bone health include prolonged corticosteroid use, alcohol consumption, smoking, and increased age.
Not only this, certain dietary habits can exacerbate the loss of bone mass, leading to weaker, more brittle bones putting individuals over 60 at an even higher risk rate of falls and fractures.
Regardless of whether you have had weight loss surgery, you must ensure that you take regular Vitamin D, Exercise regularly and have a DEXA scan if you are above 60.
“Certain dietary habits can exacerbate the loss of bone mass, leading to weaker, more brittle bones putting individuals over 60 at an even higher risk rate of falls and fractures.”
5 foods that eat away at your bones
1. Carbonated Drinks
Soft drinks (yes, even diet soda) are packed with phosphoric acid, which causes an increase in the blood’s acidity levels. As a result, the body pulls calcium out of our bones to bring the acidity levels back to normal.
“When calcium intake is low, consuming excessive amounts of phosphoric acid will promote rapid calcium loss from the body.” Dr Walding explains.
To make matters worse, nearly all soft drinks lack calcium. Couple this with the fact that they also increase calcium excretion in our urine and it’s easy to see how these dangerous drinks act as a double whammy for bone health, putting seniors at serious risk for developing dilapidating bone conditions.
2. Table Salt
While sodium plays an important role in our overall health, overconsuming table salt or eating excessive amounts of high-sodium foods can pose a great obstacle to a sturdy skeleton.
Research has found that postmenopausal women with a high-salt diet lose more bone minerals than other women of the same age.
Studies show that regular table salt, not simply sodium, causes calcium loss, weakening bones with time. That’s important because we get about 90% of our sodium through salt.
We also get about twice as much sodium as we should. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines advise limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day – equal to a teaspoon of salt. But most of us get at least 4,000 milligrams a day.
This is hidden in many processed and packaged foods that we are buying.
A good starting point is to replace regular table salt with pink Himalayan salt instead.
Both table salt and pink Himalayan salt consist mostly of sodium chloride, but pink Himalayan salt has up to 84 other minerals and trace elements – including potent doses of common minerals like potassium and calcium which help maintain the vital mineral balance needed for healthy bones.
3. Excessive Caffeine
When ingested excessively, caffeine can begin leaching calcium from bones, sapping their strength.
Over-consuming caffeine (from soda or coffee or other caffeinated drinks) is a particular problem when a woman doesn’t get enough calcium each day, to begin with.
That’s not as much of a loss as salt, but for coffee lovers who are unwilling to budge on their java intake – it’s worrisome, nonetheless.
For reference, a 16-ounce cup of coffee can provide 320 milligrams which exceed the daily recommended amount when it comes to supporting strong, healthy bones.
The good news is that limiting caffeine intake to 300 milligrams a day while consuming the appropriate amount of bone-rebuilding nutrients can help offset the losses caused by excessive caffeine intake.
Coffee addicts may also find it helpful to gradually reduce their caffeine intake by drinking half regular and half-decaf coffee.
4. Hydrogenated Oils
Hydrogenated oils are man-made fats produced by contaminating vegetable oils with hydrogen gas under super-high pressure – which creates synthetic artery-blocking trans fats.
This man-made form of trans fat is not to be confused with the naturally occurring trans fats found within animal products and coconut oil – Naturally occurring trans fats are proven to support our health whereas the synthetic version can do serious damage.
This is because the synthetic processing used to create hydrogenated oil destroys any naturally-occurring vitamin K in the vegetable oils. And since vitamin K is essential for strong bones, experts recommend forgoing any foods that contain non-natural trans fats completely (think fast food, frozen food, pastries, and most store-bought coffee creamers).
To ensure your foods aren’t contaminated by these foul fats, check the ingredient list (even if the label reads trans-fat-free) for any “hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils.” Those phrases are synonyms for synthetic trans fats and are likely to be snuck into your food.
5. Wheat Bran
Like beans, wheat bran contains high levels of phytates which can prevent the body from absorbing calcium. However, unlike beans, 100% wheat bran is the only food that appears to reduce the absorption of calcium in other foods eaten at the same time.
For example, when consuming 100% wheat bran cereal with fortified milk, the body’s ability to absorb calcium from the milk is drastically reduced.
Cereal and bread lovers should consider switching from wheat bran products to using sprouted grain products instead like those offered by the Ezekiel brand. The sprouting process breaks down phytates, which frees up nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins as well as nutrients from companion foods (like the calcium from fortified milk) easier to absorb.
Plus, the sprouting process also breaks down some of the starch found in whole wheat bran grains, which makes sprouted grain products a little easier to digest. Making sprouted grain products the preferred alternative not just for bones, but for overall health and wellbeing.
Heaney, R., Abrams, S., Dawson-Hughes, B. et al. Peak Bone Mass . Osteoporos Int 11, 985–1009 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/s001980070020
Jameel Iqbal, Mone Zaidi, Molecular regulation of mechanotransduction, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Volume 328, Issue 3, 2005, Pages 751-755, ISSN 0006-291X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbrc.2004.12.087
Liu H, Paige NM, Goldzweig CL, Wong E, Zhou A, Suttorp MJ, Shekelle P. Screening for osteoporosis in men: a systematic review for an American College of Physicians Guideline. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(9):685. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-148-9-200805060-00009.
Osteoporosis: diagnosis and risk assessment. Clin Pharm 2014; https://doi.org/10.1211/cp.2014.11138170
If you have enjoyed this topic, you might also like to watch Dr Arun’s Youtube Video Is Dairy Good for Weight Loss?
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Dr Arun Dhir | GI Surgeon, Health Reformist & Passionate Educator.
About Dr Arun:
Besides having a busy private practice at Melbourne Gastro Surgery – Centre for Weight Loss, Dr Arun is an active member of the ANZ Association of Gastro-Oesophageal surgeons (ANZGOSA), ANZ Society of Metabolic and Obesity Surgery (OSSANZ) and Australian College of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM).
Dr Arun is also a senior lecturer (University of Melbourne) and yoga and meditation teacher, with a strong interest in the mind-body-gut connection. He regularly writes and speaks about gut health, gut microbiome, obesity, gastrointestinal surgery and healing. Arun’s published works include Happy Gut Healthy Weight (Balboa Press 2018), Creating a New You – Health Journal (Metagenics 2019), and Your Mess Has a Message (2021).