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Bone Health

So, I mentioned last week that I broke my foot. I actually broke my 5th metatarsal. It is a good thing that my bone didn’t get displaced though. It just cracked. I probably would have needed surgery if it was displaced. I broke it from running in heels and my foot just twisted in. Ladies (and some guys), please be careful when wearing heels!

Anyway, having broken my foot got me thinking about bone health. What caused my bone to be more susceptible to breaking? After all, my foot has turned in like that before and it didn’t break. However, it did this time. Is it because I haven’t been taking care of my bone health? Or is it because that particular bone is easier to break?

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To give a brief overview of my diet, I ate whatever I wanted until I was in high school. Once I was in high school, I wanted to lose weight and I severely restricted my eating. I wasn’t even drinking as much milk (which contains calcium and is fortified with Vitamin D) since I didn’t want to gain any weight. I thought milk was fattening. Imagine a growing adolescent body, needing more energy, and only getting about 1,200 calories. Of course I would be deficient in many vitamins and minerals. I did, however, exercise and did a lot of weight bearing exercises.

Anyway, let’s get back to the real nutrition of having healthy bones.

The first thing I want to say is, think of your bone as a savings account for calcium. You reach your peak bone density before age 30. After that, your body tends to break down bone faster than body is building bone. The most optimal time to build your savings account is during the adolescent years, when calcium absorption is at one of the highest, besides during infancy and childhood. After that, the body absorbs calcium less efficiently. I emphasize this because adolescents tend to become more independent during this time and make more of their own food choices.

This is important because adolescents are still growing at this time and are still trying to reach their optimal height. If they don’t consume enough calcium during this time, it may affect their skeletal (bone) health in the future and make bones more prone to fracture. Osteoporosis is a possibility in the future, especially if one is maintaining poor bone health.

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What is the most important function of calcium in the body besides maintaining skeletal health? Conducting nerve impulses! If your blood calcium levels are very low, Vitamin D (a hormone/vitamin) senses it and will tell your bones to break down and release calcium into the blood stream. It also tells your small intestine and kidneys to absorb (or reabsorb from the kidneys) more calcium. Your CNS (Central Nervous System) is your top priority when calcium levels are extremely low. Although 99% of calcium’s function is to maintain skeletal health, the 1% (nerve impulses, making sure your heart beats, etc) takes priority.

Adolescents should be consuming 1,300 mg of calcium (the RDA, Recommended Dietary Allowance). Females tend to consume less than the RDA (948 mg) while males tend to be pretty close to the RDA (1260 mg) for calcium. The RDA for Vitamin D (hormone/vitamin) is 15 micrograms (mcg) or 600 International Units (IU). The RDA for calcium for adults is 1,000 mg. The RDA for Vitamin D is the same for adults. Vitamin D is important for blood calcium homeostasis, as mentioned earlier.

There are other vitamins that play a role in bone health, including Vitamin C (for development of bone collagen) and Vitamin K (assists osteoblast cells in building bone). However, Vitamin D and Calcium are very important for bone health. Also, weight bearing exercises are also great for your bone health.

Remember that I am not a medical professional and it is best to speak with a Registered Dietitian or doctor to assess whether or not you are consuming enough calcium and to assess your bone health. I do, however, have a Bachelor’s of Science in Family and Consumer Science with a concentration in Nutrition and Food. I am able to give general nutrition advice. 

That is it for now!

What is your favorite sources of food for calcium? 

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