How to increase bone density
Do you want to know how to increase bone density and why is it important? We need strong bones to support and allow us to move. They protect the brain, heart and other major organs from injury. They also store minerals including calcium and phosphorus, which help keep bones strong.
We reach “peak” bone mass in our late 20s, and we begin to lose bone strength as we age. In particular, after menopause, women may be more susceptible to osteoporosis. Strengthen bones and muscles, reduce the risk of injury, and improve balance and coordination.
Nutrition consultant Jenna Hope says: “Maintaining high bone density is essential in reducing the risk of age-related bone disorders, such as osteoporosis, which occur when bones become weak, brittle and easy to break. If we have low bone mineral density, we have a higher risk of fractures later in life. We are also prone to pain and postural impairment due to brittle and weak bones.”
Exercise – especially weight training – can help increase bone density, as can a diet rich in vitamins, protein, and calcium.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million have low bone density. Fortunately, no matter how old we are, there are many things we can do to prevent bone loss, and even build new bone.
Try strength training
We all know that lifting weights is great for building muscle, but did you know that it also helps increase bone density? Studies have shown that weight lifting and strength training can support new bone growth and maintain existing bone structure.
“Weightlifting is a great lifestyle factor that can contribute to long-term bone health as it encourages constant bone turnover. Thus, lifting weights regularly can contribute to the growth of new bone, which in turn allows the bones to become stronger,” says Hope.
A 2003 study in the Journal of Graduate Medicine found that endurance training may be especially beneficial for postmenopausal women. The women did a 12-month strength-training program and saw a “significant increase in bone density” in their spine and hips, areas commonly affected by osteoporosis.
Eat foods rich in vitamin C
If you want to increase bone density, vitamin C plays an essential role in the production of collagen, which in turn helps keep bones strong. In contrast, lifestyle factors, such as stress, lack of physical activity, high intake of caffeine and alcohol as well as smoking, can contribute to decline in bone health, says Hope.
She adds: “Vitamin C is abundant in fruits and vegetables and consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is enough to reach the recommended 40mg per day. Vitamin C is water soluble and so if taken in high doses as a supplement, the body will excrete the extra Vitamin C it doesn’t need.”
Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, kiwi, black currant, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes.
Increase your calcium intake
Calcium is the most important nutrient for bone health and it’s important that people get enough from their diet or in supplement form. The recommended upper limit for calcium is 2,500mg a day for adults (19 to 50). For 51+, the limit is 2,000 mg a day.
“Calcium, along with phosphorus, contributes to the production of the mineral hydroxyapatite, which provides strength and density in the bones. Low calcium levels can be difficult to determine because 99% of calcium is stored in the bones, and when blood calcium levels drop, calcium is released from the bones into the bloodstream. As a result, low calcium status can often be masked and thus may increase the risk of low bone mineral density,” says Hope.
She adds: “While calcium is particularly important, it cannot function without vitamin D and vitamin K. Vitamin D allows calcium to be absorbed into the bloodstream, and vitamin K then acts as a carrier that helps transport transport calcium to bones. Therefore, making sure to consume calcium along with vitamin D and vitamin K is key to bone health.
Calcium can be found in dairy products, fortified dairy alternatives, nuts (such as almonds), tofu, and green leafy vegetables. In general, you should supplement with 10µg of vitamin D during the winter months and ensure safe, adequate sun exposure throughout the summer months. Vitamin K can be found in green leafy vegetables and soy products, such as natto.
Avoid low-calorie diets
Extreme diets, especially low-calorie ones, can lead to all sorts of health problems, including loss of bone density.
“Eating a low-calorie diet may increase the risk of weakened bones because there is less chance of getting adequate nutrients to support bone health. Therefore, ensuring a healthy, energy-dense and nutrient-rich diet is key to supporting long-term bone health,” says Hope.
A healthy weight is also essential for bone density. If you’re underweight, you’re at a higher risk of bone disease, while if you’re overweight, you put extra stress on your bones. Yo-yo dieting – rapid weight loss and gain – is also bad for bone density. When you lose weight, you’ll most likely lose bone density, but if you gain weight back, bone density won’t — meaning weaker bones and an increased risk of osteoporosis fractures.
Eat more protein
Want to know how to increase bone density? Eat more protein, Hope advises. “Protein helps support bone structure and bone strength. People over 65 can benefit from increased protein consumption and engaging in safe regular weightlifting exercises to optimize bone health and reduce the risk of falls and fractures,” she says.
“Complete proteins (those containing all nine .) essential amino acids) can be found in many animal sources, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Protein can also be found in plant sources, but complete plant protein is difficult to find. Therefore, those following a vegan or plant-based diet must ensure that they are consuming a variety of plant sources, which necessitate a variety of amino acids – the building blocks of protein. Good sources of plant protein include beans, legumes, nuts, soy products, and whole grains.
“Protein can also be found in smaller amounts in some vegetables like broccoli and spinach,” says Hope.
Todd, JA (2003, June 1). Osteoporosis and exercise. Journal of Graduate Medicine. Accessed April 29, 2022 from
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