I don’t mean to complain, but it’s been a heckuva week. My dad fell & broke his femur last week. This is for the second time in less than a year. Without going into too much detail, my dad is a generally unhealthy guy. Not in the way I usually describe–he’s not diabetic, obese, or suffering from heart or respiratory problems. All that is quite a miracle given that he has subsisted on Wendy’s (he seemed to have been on a first name basis with Dave), McDonald’s (probably knows the release dates of all the new sandwiches), and corned beef sandwiches. I can not ever recall him eating a vegetable, although he did teach me to make vegetable soup. So what does a sedentary life of processed animal consumption get you? In my dad’s case, kidney failure, which causes osteoporosis. Oy.
With that in mind, I went back to the Eat Right America web site to see what it say about osteoporosis. Nutritarians eschew dairy products, which are touted as being an excellent source of dietary calcium. Here’s the Nutritarian take:
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need dairy products to get sufficient calcium. Every natural food contains calcium. When you eat a healthy diet, rich in natural foods such as vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, it is impossible not to obtain sufficient calcium. In fact, the addition of more natural plant foods to the diet has been shown to have a powerful effect on increasing bone density and bone health. Researchers found that those who eat the most fruits and vegetables have denser bones. These researchers concluded that fruits and vegetables are not only rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and other nutrients essential for bone health, but, because they are alkaline, not acid-producing, they do not induce urinary calcium loss. Green vegetables in particular have a powerful effect on reducing hip fractures, for they are rich not only in calcium but other nutrients as well, such a vitamin K, which is crucial for bone health.
Green vegetables also have calcium absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk. And, since animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, compared to dairy, the calcium retention from vegetables is higher. All green vegetables are high in calcium.
Despite the debate surrounding milk and osteoporosis and how much calcium is ideal, one thing is clear: adequate calcium is important for reducing the risk of osteoporosis. And when women supplement their diet with extra calcium, hip fractures do decrease. A combination supplement containing 800 IU of Vitamin D along with calcium has been shown to reduce both bone loss and hip fractures. Calcium should not be taken in excessive doses and I recommend that, if supplemented, calcium should be in the 400 – 600 mg range, not the 1000 – 2000 mg range. In conclusion, a modest increase in calcium via supplementation is appropriate for most people, but real food should supply a good percentage of your calcium intake to achieve the right balance of supportive nutrients to maximize bone health.
Wait, here’s more from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine web site (bias: these are doctors who want you to be vegetarian):
The loss of bone mineral probably results from a combination of genetics and dietary and lifestyle factors, particularly the intake of animal protein, salt, and possibly caffeine, along with tobacco use, physical inactivity, and lack of sun exposure.
Animal protein tends to leach calcium from the bones, leading to its excretion in the urine. Animal proteins are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, especially cystine and methionine. Sulfur is converted to sulfate, which tends to acidify the blood. During the process of neutralizing this acid, bone dissolves into the bloodstream and filters through the kidneys into the urine. Meats and eggs contain two to five times more of these sulfur-containing amino acids than are found in plant foods.3
International comparisons show a strong positive relationship between animal protein intake and fracture rates. Such comparisons generally do not take other lifestyle factors, such as exercise, into account. Nonetheless, their findings are supported by clinical studies showing that high protein intakes aggravate calcium losses. A 1994 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when animal proteins were eliminated from the diet, calcium losses were cut in half.4 Patients can easily get adequate protein from grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.
So yes, I am kidding myself when I think a lump of triple creme St. Andre is a calcium boost. Dammit.
As far as my own eating habits are concerned, I’m still pretty veg-centric, although the grains are creeping up to a higher proportion than is recommended. It is just too easy to slather hummus on toast. Also, I am relying on eggs quite a bit, because I love them so. Still, I am down almost, almost 25 pounds. I even had to buy a new little black dress for an event the other night. Pics to follow soon, I promise.