Your Child’s Diet and How to Prevent Osteoporosis

Jul 7, 2009 by

Stock skeleton

My 23-year-old niece was recently diagnosed with a severe vitamin D deficiency. The doctor told her he was afraid she would end up with osteoporosis at 40. She has had thyroid problems and apparently it’s related.

This diagnosis set the women in my mom’s family talking. Our family is under the shadow of a history of osteoporosis. It’s a big concern.  I’ve long wondered how I can best protect my daughter as well as myself.

So my niece is now taking a lot of vitamin D (which increases calcium absorption).  Several in our family, including me and my daughter, started taking some, too.  That seems like a band-aid to me, though, not a true solution to an abnormality. Sort of like taking aspirin to kill the pain without knowing or doing anything about what’s causing the pain.  Isn’t the body supposed to produce its own vitamin D from exposure to the sun?

I had some questions:  what’s causing the vitamin D deficiency? And how can we address it besides just taking vitamin D? Will vitamin D supplements really prevent osteoporosis?

I told my sister I wondered if it wasn’t something like I’d learned about the alkaline soil here in Texas: because of pH of the soil, plants are unable to use certain nutrients in the soil. It’s not that the nutrients aren’t there; it’s rather that they’re locked up.  Adding nutrients to the soil won’t help, as long as the chemistry is off.

Bad Chemistry

I was surprised to find how close to the truth I actually appear to have been. But in the case of the human body, it’s not alkalinity that’s the problem, but acidity.

A high acid balance in the body causes calcium to leach from the bones and be excreted in the urine.

Taking calcium doesn’t help when too much of it’s being excreted before it can do the bones any good. Supplements don’t help when the body is too acidic, any more than adding those nutrients to alkaline soil, because the body is unable to use it. It’s like giving food to a starving man but keeping his hands tied and a strip of duct tape across his mouth.

The apparent cause for this imbalance in the body?  The typical American diet, in particular cereal grains (wheat, etc.), legumes (beans like pinto and garbanzo), and salt.  Processed, salty and sugary junk foods are at fault, as we might suspect, but so are those “wholesome” whole grains.  An even bigger surprise?  Dairy products.

Cheese, for example, is high in calcium but its acidity will actually push you toward bone loss unless you eat enough fruits and vegetables to counteract the acidity, according to the author of The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat, Loren Cordain.

Part of the problem is that too much salty processed foods and not enough veggies and fruit has created an imbalance of sodium to potassium.  We have flipped on its head the ratio of sodium to potassium from what it should be: the average American eats one quarter the potassium and three times the sodium eaten by early humans.  It’s not good.

The most alkaline-forming foods are fruits (raisins are number one) and vegetables (spinach is number one).  We all knew Americans weren’t eating enough of them, but their role in specifically preventing bone loss is less known.

The Problem with Cereal Grains

Loren Cordain calls a diet high in cereal grains and legumes a “catastrophe for your bone health. “ Along with producing acidity:

· Cereals contain high levels of phosphorus, which contributes to bone loss.

· Even whole grains get in the way of the body metabolizing vitamin D

Strong Bones Without Milk

Unlike the modern American, hunter gatherers both in distant and recent history didn’t get osteoporosis. Yet, the hunter gatherer diet does not include any milk products—it’s tough to milk a wild animal even if you can catch it, as Cordain points out. Researchers attribute their bone health to a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables, which gave them adequate calcium while also creating an alkaline balance in the body, even though they ate a lot of meat, which is acid producing.

On the other hand, the fossil record shows that later humans, the first farmers, who were eating grains, legumes and dairy, do shows evidence of bone mineral problems.

A new book, Building Bone Vitality, by Dr. Amy Lanou, also presents evidence that, contrary to popular belief and conventional wisdom, dairy is useless in preventing osteoporosis and that an alkaline diet (along with exercise) is the real answer to the problem.

Taking calcium just isn’t adequate to make up for too little fruit and vegetables and too much of everything else, even those foods most people considered pretty healthy.

Believe it or not. But what expert would have a gripe with eating more fruits and vegetables? So you and your children have nothing to lose and strong bones and more to gain.

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 7 July 2009 / All rights reserved