Osteoporosis, also called “old ladies disease”, literally means porous bone. It is characterized by an excessive loss of bone tissue and an increased susceptibility to fractures. It occurs primarily in white ‘women over the age of 60 and is responsible for 1.2 million fractures. An estimated 24 million Americans suffer from this disease and almost 710 billion dollars are spent each year in medical and nursing home care of persons suffering from the complications of this condition.

As women grow old, after age 40, they progressively lose bone tissue. By the time they reach 70, some of them have already lost 50% of their bones. This leads these women prone to easy fractures. In rare instances, osteoporosis can even develop as early as age 20.

The condition is caused by low level of estrogen after the women reach menopause. This is further accelerated by low calcium in the body.

National Institute of Health on osteoporosis recommended that all Americans ingest at least 1000 mg of elemental calcium. Everyday. Contrary to this, it has been noticed that the average American woman age 50 or above, consumed 550mg of calcium day , which is quite lower than usually recommended.

Very low dose of calcium can Cause osteoporosis in experimental animals and in humans avoidance of calcium may be accompanied by an increased incidence of osteoporosis.

The specialists, however, point out several other factors in addition to low calcium diets responsible for the fast rate of bone loss. Some of them are inadequate physical activity, alcohol abuse, childlessness, heredity, female sex, race Caucasian or oriental, small body bone frame, smoking and exercise strenuous enough to cause missed menstrual periods.

For women who are at high risk of developing osteoporosis, the physicians should be consulted for considering estrogenprogestine replacement therapy as soon as menses cease. Also. they should continue to take adequate amounts of calcium derived preferably from balanced meals rich in calcium.

The bone specialists; however, prefer calcium derived from food over calcium supplements available in tablet or serum forms. Besides being costly to buy, calcium supplements given with food adversely affect iron absorption by 50%. This results in iron deficiency anemia. Also, heavy use of calcium supplements is not recommended, if the person has a history of kidney stones.

There are many foods which are Rich in calcium. In addition to dairy products, the vegetables such as mustard, spinach, broccoli, turnips, collards, and other green vegetables are found to be high in calcium content, it has been estimated that 76% of the body calcium is derived from dairy products.

At the end, the current evidence rules that wholesale administration of large deposits of calcium should be avoided. Proper died, rich in calcium combined with exercise and avoidance of other factors such as alcoholism which causes osteoporosis, appear to be deterrent against the development of this otherwise crippling disease at this moment.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 20, 1988