Osteoporosis, a disease that weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break, affects millions and millions of Americans each year. It affects women much more often than men and is more common in older people.
The good news is that it can be prevented and treated. Many experts recommend eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising and avoiding alcohol and cigarette smoke, as strong preventative measures.
A new study from Purdue University finds that dairy has an inherent advantage over calcium carbonate, the most common type of calcium used in supplements.
“The study shows that dairy builds bigger and stronger bones during growth when compared with calcium carbonate,” says Connie Weaver, PhD, lead researcher and professor at the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
At early ages, children are told by their parents to drink their milk. Between the ages of 9 and 18, people require 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day for optimal bone growth. Unfortunately, a significant portion of kids don’t get enough calcium. Oftentimes, supplements are used to make up the difference, but there has been no study, before this one, comparing the bone growth from supplements and dairy products. The results favor dairy products.
“The best thing women can do is build strong bones when they are young and then hold onto it for as long as they can with good diets and weight-bearing exercise,” says Weaver. Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others, so it is important to pay attention to risk factors. The list includes:
- Being female
- Increasing age
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Thin or small body frames
- Long-term use of corticosteroids
- Personal history of eating disorders or amenorrhea
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Low estrogen levels
“Osteoporosis affects women more than men because women achieve a lower peak bone mass as well as have bone loss during menopause due to the reduction in estrogen,” explains Dorothy Teegarden, PhD, professor at Purdue University at the department of foods and nutrition.