May is Osteoporosis Prevention Month
Posted May 6, 2008
COLUMBIA, MO - Women in their 20s and 30s will have big problems as they age if they don’t start thinking about bone health now, according to a University of Missouri nutritional scientist who studies osteoporosis. Bone mass in women peaks at age 30 and is stable until age 50 when a rapid loss begins to occur. Men stay relatively steady over time and do not experience a significant bone loss until age 70.
In a recent study, Pam Hinton, associate professor of nutritional sciences in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, found that physically active women had a major risk for osteoporosis if their body mass index (BMI) was too low and they had too few menstrual cycles -- fewer than four per year -- despite being physically active. The average age of the women in the study was 22 year old. The study was published in the journal Women in Sport and Physical Activity.
Hinton says physical activity alone cannot protect women from low bone mass or make up for a loss of estrogen.
"The women in the study did not have eating disorders and would not be expected to be at risk for low bone density," Hinton said. "That is why several factors are important for bone health: body weight, physical activity, estrogen status, calcium and vitamin D intake."
According to Hinton, the skeleton responds to impact or weight-bearing activity such as running, soccer, volleyball, group exercise classes, and resistance training. Swimming, walking and cycling will not help build or maintain bone mass.
Calcium also is very important for strong, healthy bones. Hinton suggests that supplements such as calcium citrate or calcium carbonate are best. She says to be wary of calcium from bone meal or oyster shells, as those supplements are not well absorbed and may have contaminants.
"Supplements are certainly better than nothing; but, dairy products are better because you can get calcium and other healthy benefits like vitamin D and protein," Hinton said.
It is inevitable as people age bone mass will be lost. Beginning with the highest bone mass possible is the best way to combat the loss that comes with aging.
"If you didn’t do anything while you were younger, it is never too late to take action," Hinton said. "You can at least prevent more bone loss and add small amounts of bone mass through exercise and vitamin intake."