Are You Neglecting Your Bones?

Monday, May 11, 2015
Are You Neglecting Your Bones?

Osteoporosis is one of the most neglected diseases in the Middle East. While lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease gain headline attention, awareness about osteoporosis and its prevention is often ignored.


Lack of awareness and poor nutrition coupled with growing demographic and socioeconomic changes mean that the number of osteoporosis cases and bone fractures is rapidly rising. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have the highest rates of hip fractures in the world, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF).


According to the latest research, osteoporosis affects 1 in 3 women worldwide and approximately 1 in 2 women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. The general conception is that osteoporosis affects post-menopausal women due to the decrease in the hormone estrogen and its direct effect on bone density. But what most women fail to recognize is that osteoporosis has another cause, which can start as early as adolescence if a woman’s diet lacks the sufficient amounts of calcium necessary for maintaining bone health; so as adults they start to lose up to 1% of their bone mass every year, and the rate accelerates to 30% by the age of 50 years. In addition to that, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and other unhealthy habits can also negatively affect bone health and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.


World Osteoporosis Day, celebrated annually on the 20th of October, is designed to raise awareness about the disease.  Globally, Nestlé partnered with the International Osteoporosis Foundation to spread awareness on the importance of good nutrition and physical activity in maintaining strong and healthy bones. 


Adopting a healthy lifestyle that focuses on nutrition is critical at this stage of your life. The most important vitamins and minerals for building strong bones are calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D. Calcium, a major component of bones, combines with phosphorous to form the collagen that holds bones together and increases their thickness.

Women usually need around 1000mg of calcium every day; you can get this by eating dairy products such as yogurt, labneh, and cheese, and drinking milk. Other essential foods that boost the levels of phosphorous include meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and legumes.


“Although genetic factors affect bone mass, a healthy lifestyle also plays a key role. In fact, good nutrition and exercise are essential for building strong bones in childhood and adolescence, and for maintaining bone density throughout adulthood. Young women should be aware of the risks associated with osteoporosis and should take steps to prevent fractures. They should ensure that they are getting the right intake of calcium and phosphorous, and are encouraged to take up regular exercise in order to lead an invigorating life,” commented Sarah Kanaan, Market Nutritionist at Nestlé Middle East.


While levels of calcium and phosphorous can be boosted through food and drink, the best source of vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight and vitamin D-fortified milk. Exercise is also a critical element to maintain healthy bones. Taking part in weight bearing exercises, such as walking, running, dancing, and playing sports, is one of the best ways to build strong bones.


Adopt a healthy lifestyle with these tips by Sarah Kanaan, Market Nutritionist at Nestlé Middle East:

  • Ensure that you have a varied and balanced diet rich in calcium by consuming items such as milk and milk products, green leafy vegetables, and tiny fish with bones (sardines).
  • Ensure that your diet is rich in phosphorous and vitamin D.
  • Bones and muscles get stronger when they are used… so get moving! What kind of exercise is good for your muscles and bones? 

A combination of the three types of exercise below will help strengthen your bones and give you more balance:

  • Weight bearing exercise is one of the best kinds of physical activity that keeps you active and on your feet so that your legs carry your body weight and ultimately helps you reach your peak bone mass. You should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Examples of weight bearing exercise are walking, stair climbing, tennis, volleyball, skiing, gymnastics, soccer, basketball, tai chi, and dancing.
  • Resistance training helps maintain your bone density. Carry light weights, dumbbells, or your groceries at least three times per week.
  • Flexibility exercises keep your muscles relaxed and give elasticity to your muscle tissues enabling you to perform daily activities with less effort and difficulty. This type of activity includes gentle reaching, bending, or stretching activities like yoga at least twice per week
  • In today’s overscheduled world, make sure you spend quality time with your kids and stay active. Jumping on a trampoline, playing catch, or dancing with your children cover all 3 types of exercises in one go and allow you to set a good example.
  • Add yogurt to meals or make dishes with milk to enhance your calcium intake.
  • Include low fat protein sources such as meat, chicken, fish, milk or milk products, and beans in your regular diet.
  • Include a whole grain or complex carbohydrate such as potato, rice, whole grain pasta, and a good variety of vegetables in your diet.
  • Stay off carbonated drinks because they are rich in phosphoric acid which might lead to calcium bone loss - especially if the diet is not adequate in calcium.
  • Avoid diets that induce severe weight-loss and cause undernutrition.


Does coffee affect calcium levels in the bones? 

The possible relationship between caffeine intake and bone health is a relatively new area of research. Several studies have shown no association between caffeine consumption and BMD (Bone Mineral Density) or the risk of hip fracture.


Caffeine does produce a small increase in calcium excretion and a very small decrease in calcium absorption.  But the body compensates by decreasing calcium excretion 2 to 3 hours later, so the net effect on calcium is unchanged. In order to ensure strong and healthy bones, one should consume a diet adequate in calcium, providing 1000 mg/day for adults. Adding milk to your coffee can indeed help you meet your calcium needs, especially if you don’t like the taste of milk. If you love NESCAFÉ, moderate consumption of up to four cups a day is good for you.