While a genetic link to osteoporosis has been discovered, the gene itself has not yet been isolated. Despite this genetic link, scientists have discovered that osteoporosis has a nutritional component. Calcium deficiencies and hormonal deficiencies have also been linked to osteoporosis.
Some people who have no genetic link to osteoporosis find themselves dealing with this condition due to other factors. For example, osteoporosis can be caused by extended treatment with steroids, kidney malfunction, surgical removal of gonads, and extensive burns. Burns cause severe tissue damage, limiting vitamin D synthesis, thereby decreasing calcium absorption.
Even eating large amounts of calcium-rich foods may not be enough to prevent osteoporosis. Researchers have discovered that calcium absorption may be decreased in people with a vitamin D deficiency. Since the kidneys produce vitamin D, damage to the kidneys can often cause this problem.
Vitamin D itself cannot be taken in a supplement form because its structure is digestible. The body breaks down the vitamin so it does not remain in its functional form in the intestines. Without vitamin D in the intestinal receptors, calcium absorption is decreased.
So even eating large amounts of calcium-rich foods such as yogurt, cheese, or broccoli may not be enough to prevent osteoporosis. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend 1500 mg/day of calcium intake for young adults or those at risk for osteoporosis. Also important is maintaining an active lifestyle and sufficient exposure to the sun to maintain vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
A wide variety of supplements are available to the public. However, research has shown that not all supplements contain comparable amounts of elemental calcium. For example calcium gluconate-based supplements only contain nine percent of the calcium element, whereas calcium carbonate contains approximately forty percent. This is how the different types measure up.
- Calcium carbonate 40%
- Calcium phosphate 31%
- Calcium citrate 21%
- Calcium lactate 13%
- Calcium gluconate 9%.
Maintaining Calcium Intake
Let’s look at ways to increase daily calcium without drastic changes.
- Eat green leafy vegetables, like broccoli and kale, which are useful sources of calcium.Increase your intake of dairy products, using low fat products that reduce calories while maintaining calcium levels.
- Take a daily multivitamin or get 15 minutes of direct exposure to the sun per day. This provides adequate vitamin D for the average adult.
- Add a tablespoon or two of non-fat dry milk when cooking. This adds 50 mg of calcium per tablespoon.
- Drink orange juice with calcium added. It contains as much calcium as the same amount of milk. Low acid varieties are useful for adults who cannot drink orange juice because of its acidity.
- If you’re lactose intolerant, use a lactase enzyme replacement in a tablet or liquid form to take in a sufficient amount of dairy products.
- Eat green leafy vegetables, like broccoli and kale, which are useful sources of calcium.
- Don’t like vegetables? Try almonds, or legumes, which are also good calcium sources.