If you think you already know the risk factors for osteoporosis, then Patrick Holford’s approach may surprise you. In his recent book ‘Balance Your Hormones’ he outlines some things which may be news to you.
This is the list – how many apply to you?
- Too much protein
- Inappropriate levels of stress
- Poor intake of specific nutrients
- Poor use of specific nutrients
- Poor absorption of specific nutrients
- Too much salt
- Too little stomach acid
- High use of stimulants and fizzy drinks
- High intake of phytates
- Too much sulphate
Perhaps the most surprising is the protein, as for many women a high protein diet has been found to be effective for weight loss. However it does not seem to be as good for your long term bone health.
According to the World Health Organisation it is one of the most significant, yet less well known risk factors for osteoporosis. Why protein? Because it is digested in the presence of levels of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) and women post 50 often produce insufficient levels of this. This acid is also vital for releasing minerals from food so if you don’t produce enough you will not fully absorb them, and this is particularly important for the bone health minerals calcium, magnesium and zinc.
Protein foods create strong acids in the body which then has to work very hard to neutralise them and it does so by using alkalising minerals, most significantly calcium. In order to preserve the alkalinity of the blood – which is vital – your body will take calcium from wherever it can including your bones if necessary.
The highest rates of osteoporosis are found among the Inuit whose diet is principally protein with very little in the way of fruit and vegetables – mostly fish. In the West the highest protein foods are red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy produce which form the basis of most diets. Low fat diets which have been popular are also not good for your bones because as the fat content of a food goes down so the percentage of protein increases. Many people in the world eat no dairy products and still get good levels of calcium from foods such as nuts,seeds and dark green leafy vegetables.
If statistics impress you, then the Nurses Health Study in the US found that women who ate 95 grams of protein a day had a 22% greater osteoporosis risk than women who ate 68 grams a day. Perhaps more applicable, given the high levels of protein in most Western diets, is the study which found that eating more than 80 grams a day did increase the risk for osteoporosis. A Norwegian study also found in an 11 year study that there was an increased risk of hip fractures among the elderly eating high amounts of fish, meat and eggs.
A high protein diet will leach calcium from your body – and if it has no other source to take it from then it will remove it from your bones and that is a major risk factor for osteoporosis.
You will find information on Patrick Holford, his books, and his nutritional approach to osteoporosis at his website www.patrickholford.com