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Taking care of dem bones?

Recently a customer who follows a vegan diet mentioned that her doctor had put her on Fosomax, an expensive and difficult-to-take medication with possible disagreeable side-effects, because she was showing signs of osteoporosis.  We had a discussion about the merits of milk products, (which she avoids because of personal dietary convictions,) and how to get enough calcium.  I mentioned my idea that the further south and east your ancestors came from in the Old World (Mediterranean, Africa, the Orient), the less likely you are able to tolerate milk products.  (This is a totally unscientific, fanciful idea, nothing more.)   Of course, many people who aren't allergic to milk are lactose-intolerant, a very different problem, and one that can be solved either by using fermented milk products (cheeses, yogurt) or by taking enzyme pills (such as Lactaid, for instance) which are designed to help digest the milk's lactose.   

I'm very aware of osteoporosis.  Fortunately I don't yet have a problem.  But friends and neighbors my age are getting shorter; I can see the parts in their hair for the first time.  Some are developing a pronounced "dowagers hump".   Scary!   A couple of business associates found they had already lost considerable bone mass, and my mother-in-law fractured her hip just getting up out of a chair. 

In Women's Clinic, Dr. Holly Atkinson states:

"According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine issued just last month, only about 10 percent of Americans are getting the calcium they need to protect their bones."

Third Age states, based on a Perdue University study:

". . . strict vegetarian diets that exclude dairy products -- called vegan diets -- do not give ThirdAgers enough calcium to ward off osteoporosis down the road."

Connie Weaver, head of Purdue's Department of Foods and Nutrition, states that many vegetables contain substances that block absorption of calcium while one would have to eat impossible amounts to get enough:

". . .broccoli is well-absorbed and contains a goodly amount of calcium for a vegetable -- but you'd have to eat 4.5 servings to get the same amount of calcium available in a cup of milk.  Doing the math, it means if you give up dairy products you would need to eat up to 20 servings a day of broccoli to get enough calcium.  And if you like kale, you'd have to eat at least 10 servings a day."

She further warns:

"The increase in osteoporosis is becoming alarming. It now costs the nation about $13.8 billion annually in health care expense."

As to vegetables, the amount of calcium they contain may not tell the whole story.   See "Block Bone Loss".              

Dr. Weil holds a strong opinion that adults should, in general, stay away from milk and milk products.  He believes milk is unhealthy.   In fact, he reports on a Harvard Nurse's study which shows milk does not help the bones, although admitting that the conclusions are controversial. 

He recommends:

"We have abundant sources of non-milk calcium to choose from:   calcium-fortified orange juice; calcium-set tofu; sardines with bones; dark, leafy, green vegetables (such as kale and collards); sea vegetables; broccoli; and beans. Of course, you can always take calcium supplements if you're not getting enough of the mineral from food. Most adults need at least 1000 mg of calcium daily, but women past menopause need 1200 mg to 1500 mg a day. (Women who don't get much sun, and those in nursing homes, should also get 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D daily, which aids calcium absorption.)"

Personally, I'm addicted to cheese although I try to control it, anhd drink coconut milk and use it in cooking-  it has more calcium than milk, no lactose and is vegan.  I also eat a lot of yogurt.

Osteoporosis robs many elderly of mobility, independence, comfort and overall health.  It can destroy their quality of life. Don't let it happen to you.  It's vital to take steps now to protect that ole skeleton inside. Later may well be too late!

Read Ten Sneaky Commandments for Healthy Bones.

The Sneaky Kitchen
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