Bone is the only part of the body which is so durable that it exists long after other body tissues decompose. The skeletons of ancient human beings and animals found from various sites signify the strength of bones. However, bones present in living body can easily lose minerals and become prone to osteoporosis – a disease of bone in which it becomes weak and easily gets fractured. Studies have shown that 50 percent of women and one in every eight men above 50 years of age suffers from weak bones leading to fractures. The good news is that if good calcium –rich food regime, combined with physical activity, is followed early in life (teenage) risk of fracturing can be reduced in later years.
In fact, in women most of the bone mass is formed before puberty and reaches a peak in late 20s. In men, however, bone mass continues to build till 30-35 years of age. The bone mass peak is largely determined by person’s genetic makeup. As we grow, the rate at which bone breaks down becomes higher than that at which it builds. Later in middle age, as calcium is utilized for other functions such as contraction of muscles and clotting of blood, bones are deprived of required calcium. Since we do not have any control over our genetic makeup, the only thing under our control is the diet we take. In fact, our lifestyle as a teenager strongly controls the built of our bones and can help in reducing risk of fractures in late lives. Habits such as smoking are very bad for bones, so please quit smoking for the sake of your bones!
Let us now understand the mechanism of bone formation and protection. The main constituent of bone is calcium which gives strength and stiffness to bones. As bones lengthen, body forms protein-gallows around them which get filled with calcium-rich minerals. Therefore, body needs 1.2 grams of calcium per day from an age of 11 years to 24. Besides calcium, body also needs vitamin D for transferring calcium from the digested food in intestine to the bloodstream and bones. Our requirement for vitamin D is fulfilled by short exposure to sun. Also, vitamin A, vitamin C, Magnesium, Zinc and protein are also required for the scaffold of bones. The easiest source for calcium and protein is milk. If lactose in the milk causes gas problems, lactose –free milk or curd must be taken. Body requires Calcium for keeping good health of bones, teeth and maintaining other body functions related with heart, muscles and nerves.Since human body can not produce Calcium, it needs to absorb from Calcium from food. The amount of Calcium that must be consumed varies with individuals and depends on age/sex.
Below is a list of Calcium rich food items:
- Dairy products that are low in fat content: Skimmed milk, Yogurt, Curd, Cheese
- Green leafy vegetables
- Dry Fruits: Almonds, Figs
- Soy milk, Sesame seeds, White beans, Organge, Okra, Broccoli (boiled)
Why is exercising important for strong bones Growing bones are sensitive to muscle-pull and weights. In response to exercising, bones become strong and dense. A Calcium rich diet and regular physical activity ( weight-bearing activity) in early life is key to strong bones. This helps in arriving at peak bone mass. Weight bearing activities could include weight-lifting, walking, jogging, running, hiking, stair climbing, jumping rope, basketball etc. It is recommended that adults exercise for at least 30 minutes and children at least 60 minutes per day for stronger bone.
Three steps to stronger bones:
- Eat Calcium-rich food and engage in physical activity
- Do not skip meals and do not replace milk with other unhealthy drinks
- Do not smoke or drink. Drinkers lose lots of calcium, zinc and magnesium in urine