Osteoporosis: a public health problem

Sunday, January 6, 2013
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones, meaning “porous bones”. It affects more than 200 million people in the world, particularly women over 50.

Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density: the structure of bone tissue becomes abnormal and so weaker. 
The major problem of this disease is its way of evolution: we often call it “the silent disease” because we cannot feel our bones becoming weaker. For a long time, it can be asymptomatic. Then, a bone fracture is usually the most common way to reveal the disease but it only “suggests” the disease. Fractures are a very common pathology and all fractures are not caused by osteoporosis. That’s why your doctor needs to go further: we can only find what we search!
Sometimes, there is no fracture: back pain or changes in the posture can be the first signs. 

What is it exactly?
As soon as we are born, our bones are constantly being rebuilt and this is true all our life: there is a natural bone remodeling process in our body throughout our lifetime. 
As we get older, an imbalance appears: we lose more bone tissue than we create. Bone density changes and decreases. 
Even if bone loss is a natural process when we get older, fortunately, everybody will not develop osteoporosis. 

However some people are more at risk: scientific researches on osteoporosis suggest that some conditions are linked to bone loss: type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hormonal disorders and inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 
Moreover, smoking is one of the major risk factor: it is really important to stop smoking as soon as possible or better to never start…!
An inactive lifestyle is also linked to bone loss: doing sport is very important because it participates in the bone remodeling process. At least, you need to practice 30 minutes (walking, running etc.), three times a week. And let me remind you that sport is also good to prevent cardio-vascular diseases and breast cancer…

What about calcium and vitamin D?
Most of the time, people think that osteoporosis means “calcium or vitamin D deficiency” but as we have just seen, this is not true. However, it is important to have a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D throughout our life because scientific studies have shown that a diet low in these two elements places you at a greater risk of osteoporosis. 

Here we are! Nutrition is still the best thing to prevent disease and imbalance!

Vitamin D:
Vitamin D, also called Calciferol is both a vitamin and a prohormone; it is vital for the health of bones and teeth, as it plays an essential role in the metabolism of calcium in the body. In fact, no matter how much calcium is consumed in the diet or through supplements, it is only absorbed with sufficient quantities of vitamin D. Vitamin D regulates the level of calcium in the blood by improving calcium absorption in the intestine while at the same time minimizing the elimination of calcium in the urine. It also plays a part in mineralizing and demineralizing bones of calcium, depending on the needs of the body. 

Sources: Fishes such as salmon, tuna, trout, Atlantic cod, and sardines are rich in vitamin D. 

Calcium is the most common mineral found in the body. The body of a man contains approximately 1200 grams of calcium, and the body of a woman contains approximately 1000 grams, which represents 1 to 2% of total body weight. 99% of this calcium is found in the bones and teeth (as tricalcic phosphate and calcium carbonate organized in the form of hydroxyapatite). There are approximately 10 grams in soft parts and under 1 gram in extracellular liquids. Calcium is reabsorbed in two separate locations in the digestive tract: the majority of calcium reabsorption occurs in the intercellular space of enterocytes in the small intestine, whereas the rest is absorbed by cells in the duodenum.
The extracellular concentration of calcium ions is strong enough to influence neuromuscular control; a weak concentration could cause nervous disorders such as tetany, hypocalcaemia accompanied by cardiac arrhythmia and lowered neuromuscular excitability.
Calcium is necessary for intercellular links, the protection of cell surfaces, and the creation of cellular extensions or pseudopodia. Calcium ions come into action in the triggering of hormonal reactions and in the course of secretory processes. Cells benefit from an active mechanism that extracts calcium ions from their stronghold. Calcium is useful in building the skeleton and maintaining its solidity; it comes into play during the process of blood coagulation. To maintain stable blood calcium levels that ensure optimal vital functions, the body takes the calcium it needs from its bone reserves. 

Sources of calcium: sardines, spinach, soy beans, endives, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts.

What about dairy products:
It is better to avoid cow milk and other animal dairy products because many scientific studies have shown that calcium from such products decreases vitamin D level in our body. 
Moreover, as we get older, we do not have lactase anymore: lactase is an enzyme we need to digest lactose, the milk sugar. That’s why many people have digestive disorders when they eat dairy products. It is called lactose intolerance.
To go further if you are interesting in lactose intolerance, take a look to: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lactoseintolerance_ez/

Another problem with dairy products is contamination with antibiotics and hormones (it depends on countries laws) which are used in non-organic agriculture. These molecules are then found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt we eat. 
This is another reason to avoid dairy products. And if you need to buy some, prefer organic ones if you can. 


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