Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bone Density - The Diet Mistakes You May Be Making

photo credit: jah~ via photopin cc
This post was inspired by a friend of mine who recently found out that her bone density has decreased, despite consistent, 2x per week strength training workouts for nearly a year. You've probably heard that strength training is supposed to help maintain bone density and prevent your bones from thinning and it does help. In fact, I have worked with clients who experienced a reversal in bone density loss by adding my strength training workouts to their routine.

So, what gives? Why is this other person experiencing a loss of bone density? My guess... it's her diet. I'm not a nutritionist, but when my friend told me about her diagnosis I decided to do some research.

I sent her a couple of emails with my findings, but I strongly suspect she did not read them! So, girlfriend (you know who you are!), this post is for you. Even if she still doesn't read it at least there's a chance that someone out there will get some benefit from this information.

Again, I'm not a nutrition expert. I'm a personal trainer, interested in nutrition as it pertains to health and fitness (it's crucial by the way) and supporting the results and well being of my clients. The following is the information I sent to her in those emails.

With regard to soda... the phosphoric acid found in most sodas is actually what does the damage. The best approach is to keep away from colas (dark soda) and probably soda in general to avoid getting too much phosphoric acid.

Other things that leach calcium from bones are salt and caffeine. This is another good reason to stay away from soda. Sodium contributes to calcium loss in bones and decreased bone density. Processed foods tend to have a lot of sodium/salt. You'd be surprised at how much sodium is in the things you eat. For example, with very few exceptions, a 6" sub from Subway will have over 600mg of sodium and in many cases over 1000mg. FYI, we only need about 1500mg a day. Bread, cheese and meat often contain a lot of salt. I used Subway as an example, but their food is typical. Just about anywhere you buy a sandwich you're going to get a meal loaded with sodium.

In general you want to stay away from processed food as much as possible including restaurant and take out meals as well as processed foods from the grocery store in order to reduce your salt intake.

Something to consider is that the foods in your diet that do harm to your bone density may very well be more responsible for the problem than whether you're taking in enough calcium in your diet. If your diet is working against you, leaching calcium from your bones and interfering with your ability to absorb the calcium from your food then it will be hard to consume enough calcium to compensate for that.

Many people believe that consuming dairy, particularly milk, is necessary to get adequate calcium. However, consuming milk and dairy products has been linked to higher incidents of bone fracture and lower bone density.

Milk is not the best way to get calcium into your bones. Some better choices are collard greens, oatmeal, broccoli, kale, beans, butternut squash and sweet potatoes to name a few. It's a little unclear exactly what's causing this correlation between bone health and higher dairy consumption. A couple of possibilities based on my reading... the phosphorus in dairy makes it difficult for the body to absorb the calcium; dairy is acidic in the body which causes the body to take calcium from the bones in order to restore the proper pH balance.

If you want to see what's really going on in your diet, consider getting a free account on one of the diet logging sites. The best site I've found for this is . Try logging everything you eat and drink for a week. If you want to get control over you diet and really make sure you're eating in a way that supports your health, keeping a food log can really help. You can set your log to show you exactly how much sodium and calcium you're getting as well as other macro and micro nutrients.

This is some of what I found in my online research. At the very least  this is advice that will generally lead a person toward a healthier diet. In particular staying away from processed foods, soda and too much sodium is good advice for just about anyone.

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