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Osteoporosis Diet Dangers: Foods to Avoid

Salt, soda, caffeine: Could your daily diet be damaging your bones -- even leading to osteoporosis?
WebMD Feature

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is essential for warding off osteoporosis. For even stronger bones, avoid these everyday osteoporosis diet dangers.

Osteoporosis Diet Danger 1: Salt Is Bad for the Bone!

Salt 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.

"The salt content of the typical American diet is one of the reasons why calcium requirements are so high," says Linda K. Massey, PhD, RD, a professor of human nutrition at Washington State University in Spokane.

Massey says studies show that regular table salt, not simply sodium, causes calcium loss, weakening bones with time. That’s important because Americans get about 90% of our sodium through salt.

We also get about twice as much sodium as we should. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day – equal to a teaspoon of salt. But most Americans get at least 4,000 milligrams a day.

"Generally speaking, for every 2,300 milligrams of sodium you take in, about 40 milligrams of calcium is lost in the urine," Massey explains.

Getting the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D every day helps offset bone loss from salt.

  • Adults up to age 50 require 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily -- the equivalent of three 8-ounce glasses of milk.
  • Older adults need 1,200 milligrams of daily calcium – about half a glass more of milk.

As for vitamin D:

  • People need 200 International Units (IU) of vitamin D a day until age 50.
  • Adults need 400 IU of vitamin D from the ages of 51 to 70 years.
  • Seniors need 600 IU of vitamin D a day after age 70.

Good sources of vitamin D are natural sunlight and from fortified milk, egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and supplements.

Of all the dangers to bone, salt is perhaps the hardest to curb. Salt shows up in nearly all processed foods, including whole grain breads, breakfast cereals, and fast foods.

Removing the salt shaker from the table, and cooking without added salt, helps. But avoiding processed foods provides the biggest bang for the buck. Processed foods supply 75% of the sodium we eat.

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Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

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