Osteoporosis – the silent disease that’s now making noise

By Ms. Veenu Hirani, Nutritionist & Fitness Consultant

Osteoporsis a silent killerThe word ‘Osteoporosis’ literally means porous bone, a disease in which the density and the quality of bone is reduced as a result of which they become fragile and subsequently crack or become prone to fracture. The loss of bone occurs silently but progressively and more often than not there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs. Globally there are over 120 million Osteoporosis patients in the world today – in Europe, America and Japan alone there were an estimated 75 million cases while various expert groups peg the number of osteoporosis patients at approximately 26 million in India alone, with the numbers expected to increase to 36 million by 2013.

In a study conducted among Indian women aged between 30 and 60 from the low income groups, the Bone Mineral Density (BMD) at all the skeletal sites were much lower than values reported from developed countries, with a with a high prevalence of osteopenia (52%) and osteoporosis (29%) thought to be due to inadequate nutrition. Some other startling statistics on osteoporosis is as under:

  • Women of Asian origin are at high risk of developing osteoporosis, especially at menopause. In addition heredity & diseases of the kidney, liver & an over active thyroid are risk factors.
  • Low calcium intake, lack of exercise, smoking, certain medications (corticosteroids, anticonvulsants or thyroid hormones) & alcohol are considered as lifestyle factors contributing to osteoporosis.
  • It is estimated that 80% of those who are at high risk of osteoporosis, and have suffered at least one fracture, have neither been identified nor treated for the disease.
  • Many national governments do not treat osteoporosis as a major health priority and fail to provide adequate resources for its detection and treatment.
  • Many health insurance schemes (private and public) will not cover diagnosis and treatment prior to the first fracture – even when it is cost effective to do so.

With no permanent and proven cure for osteoporosis, right nutrition & lifestyle modification remains the only potent way to control this problem. Adequate levels of calcium intake can maximize the positive effect of physical activity on bone health during the growth period of children. Recommended dietary allowance of calcium for adults is 1,000 milligram (1 gram) daily. Women who are post-menopausal should have 1,200 milligrams (1.2 grams) daily. Calcium supplementation has been shown to have a positive effect on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women as well. Research has also suggested that lactose intolerant has been shown to be associated with low bone mass and increased risk on fracture due to low milk intake. Studies undertaken with regard to children and adolescents have shown that supplementation with calcium, dairy calcium-enriched foods or milk enhances the rate of bone mineral acquisition. Diary foods that are low in fat & high on calcium include low fat milk, yoghurt, low fat cheese & buttermilk. Other food sources include green leafy vegetables, fruits such as bananas, almonds, soy & fishes such as salmon are also rich sources.
Milk is considered one of the richest, easily accessible & cost effective sources of calcium. It is however important to regulate the milk intake with regard to quality and quality, and more so the latter considering the recent cases of adulteration in milk.
UHT milk is possibly the answer to all apprehensions with regard to quality and nutrition of milk. Milk which is sterilized by a special controlled ultra high temperature heating (UHT) is called UHT milk. This UHT milk, which is simultaneously aseptically packaged in sterile environment, excels conventional milk with nutrients protection over a long life. UHT processing kills all growing bacteria in the raw /pasteurized milk which is why it can stay as it is over months intact from any bacterial spoilage without common refrigeration inside the unopened Aseptic Pack. and with retained nutrition over months together. UHT milk thus gives essential source of calcium which ensures healthy and strong bones. UHT milk is recommended for growing children, expectant mothers, and the aged to counter osteoporosis. While milk is not the only way to ward off osteoporosis, it certainly is the easiest and the most natural way to control the growing menace!

When talking of lifestyle modification for preventing & treating osteoporosis exercise & cessation of smoking top the list. 30 minutes daily of “Weight bearing exercises” such walking, dancing & weight training will help slow down bone loss. Cycling & swimming are “non weight bearing exercises” which will help people with long standing osteoporosis & weaker bones. Co-ordination & balance exercise should be included in the routine to help prevent falls.

Besides contributing to several other medical conditions smoking causes increase in bone mineral loss & increases the likelihood of entering menopause at an early age amongst. This in turn causes reduced levels of estrogen, a female sex hormone that helps maintain bone density by keeping calcium in the bones. Low levels of estrogen cause bone calcium levels to drop & therefore reducing bone density.