Got Strong Bones?

The foods you eat can play a role in your bone health and bone density, even as we age. Although 60-80% of our peak bone mass is determined by genetics, the remaining 20-40% is influenced by diet and lifestyle factors such as physical activity.

Calcium for Bone Health

When we think of bone health, calcium is probably the first nutrient that comes to mind. Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body, and most of it is found in our bones and our teeth. Calcium has been linked to reduced bone loss and reduced hip fractures.

Not all calcium is created equal, however. Many calcium supplements are made from limestone, oyster shell, or egg shell - things that you would most likely not find yourself eating on a regular given day. Trying to get adequate calcium from dietary sources makes the calcium more bio-available to your body.

Foods Rich in Calcium

  • Dairy products, such as yogurt or milk
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and bok choy
  • Soft boned fish, such as sardines and salmon

Calcium does not work alone in your body to protect you from bone loss and possible fractures and osteoporosis later in life. Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Phosphorus, Silica, and Magnesium also work with calcium to support your skeletal structure.

Calcium during Pregnancy

During pregnancy calcium needs change, especially during the third trimester. Read more here about how to maximize absorption of your calcium supplement and the amount of calcium needed during pregnancy

Cod Liver Oil for Bone Health

In the 19th and early 20th centuries children were routinely given cod liver oil. When cod liver oil was tied to the prevention and treatment of rickets, vitamin D was discovered. Soon after, vitamin D was added to milk , and as a result, the use of cod liver oil decreased. Today, milk drinking is down and children often do not get enough vitamin D, despite aggresive marketing tactics from the dairy industry. Ever since the 1980's, dairy marketers have been promoting milk as a health promoting product that will "do a body good", help build strong bones, fight osteoporosis, and even support weight loss efforts. Including so much dairy in the diet isn't always the best approach for consuming calcium and vitamin D anyway. 

Could a return to cod liver oil help support strong bones?

Cod liver oil bears the distinction of being the highest natural source of vitamin D. In 1929, researchers tested a variety of foods for vitamin D content and found the second most potent source of vitamin D was egg yolk. Other sources include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish. Because so few foods are natural sources of vitamin D, many foods such as dairy and cereals are fortified with vitamin D in order to get more vitamin D into our diets. The primary function of Vitamin D in our bodies is to maintain calcium and phosphorus absorption in order to supply the raw materials of bone mineralization.

Cod liver oil is also a natural source of vitamin A. Recent concerns about the toxicity of vitamin A have arisen, but proponents for cod liver oil rebuke these concerns based on the studies in question using high levels of vitamin A with little or no vitamin D present. Cod liver oil, as it was used daily in children and adults in the US and UK during the first half of this century, contained both vitamin A and ample amounts of vitamin D. Studies have linked both excessive amounts of vitamin A and deficiencies of vitamin A to bone abnormalities. If taking cod liver oil, additional vitamin A supplementation should be discussed with a medical professional.

Avoid THESE for Strong, Healthy Bones

One food to avoid if you want to protect your bones is carbonated beverages and sodas. These carbonated drinks can deplete natural calcium levels in your body. Cigarette smoking has also been linked to negative effects on bone mineral density, as has excessive alcohol consumption and a sedentary, inactive lifestyle.

If you are concerned about protecting the health of your bones as you age, eating a diet full of calcium rich foods is the first step.

Supplementing a calcium rich diet with cod liver oil may offer further support for bone health and bone strength.

Talk to your doctor to see if additional supplementation with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, or vitamin D is necessary.

Melissa Zimmerman, Healthy Goods


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