Based on the posting "Can Osteoporosis be Prevented?", by Susan Brown, Ph.D., CCN, at
Edited (with Introduction) by Dr. Don Rose, Writer, Life Alert

For seniors, especially older women, osteoporosis is a common yet dreaded disease involving bone loss that can lead to hip fractures, hunched posture and other painful consequences. However, the good news is that, with proper action, one can slow the onset of (and even prevent) this affliction. The article below shares basic information about osteoporosis, as well as some ways to help keep it at bay. --Dr. Don Rose

Osteoporosis, the painful and progressive thinning of the bones, will afflict about one-third of all women and 15 to 20% of all men during their lifetimes. While these figures are certainly startling, perhaps even more startling is the fact that osteoporosis is largely, if not entirely, preventable.

The basic rule for good bone health is simple: maximize your intake of nutrient-dense, bone-building whole foods and minimize your intake of the substances that limit bone health. While the rule may be simple, living by it is apparently not so easy. Commonly, Americans consume over 20% of their calories as sugar and sweeteners and around 40% as fat. Additionally, many consume at least another 10% of their calories as alcohol. What this means is that our bodies depend on the remaining 30 to 40% of our caloric intake to supply us with all the essential nutrients we need. Added to this is the fact that our intake of some of these nutrients is out of balance; some are very low and others too high.
Protein and bone loss
When it comes to excesses, the need for protein elegantly illustrates the wisdom that more is not necessarily better. To the contrary, high protein intake actually causes bone loss. Countries with lower protein consumption generally have lower osteoporosis rates than Western countries where animal protein is abundant. Unfortunately, we in the United States consume almost twice the amount of protein that is recommended by our government.

How does a high protein intake cause bone loss? In the process of metabolizing protein, phosphoric and sulfuric acids are produced that must first be buffered with calcium, an alkalinizing mineral, before they can be excreted in the urine. Calcium is actually drawn out of the bones to reduce or buffer these acid by-products of protein metabolism. If protein intake is high and calcium intake is low or even moderate, a significant net loss of calcium can result. When we consume the typical 95 grams of daily protein, calcium is lost from the body, even on a very high calcium diet.
pH balance and bone loss
This observation leads us to another major factor associated with osteoporosis: our acid/alkaline - or pH - balance. Our body's internal environment - including our enzymatic, metabolic, and immune repair mechanisms - functions best in an alkaline environment. But the processes of living, and the metabolism of food, produce a great deal of acid. To regain the life-supporting alkaline state, acids from all sources, whether this is lactic acid produced by exercise or sulfuric acids produced by the metabolism of meat and other foods, must be neutralized by combining them with alkaline minerals. Different foods have greater or lesser alkaline/acid residues. The all-important alkalinizing minerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, chromium, selenium and iron. Acid-forming minerals in our food include phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine and iodine.

Our bones contain large reservoirs of alkaline salts that can potentially be mobilized. For example, when our internal pH becomes more acidic, these minerals are mobilized from our bones to neutralize excess acidity which, in the process, depletes bone density and eventually contributes to osteoporosis. The standard American diet is not only high in meat but is also low in the alkalinizing fruits and vegetables that could help spare the bones from constant calcium withdrawal.

Most fruits and vegetables have an alkalinizing effect, even those that appear acidic such as lemons and limes. Most grains are somewhat acid-forming, except for oats, quinoa and wild rice. Refined sugar is acid-forming and virtually all high-protein foods tend to leave an acid residue. Ideally, our diet should be comprised of about one-third acid-forming foods and two-thirds alkaline-forming foods.

Building up alkaline reserves

It takes time to build up good alkaline mineral reserves. Also remember that each individual is different. The best way to measure the success of your efforts is to obtain a bone density scan of your spine and hips with periodic follow-ups. In the beginning, exams are usually scheduled at one-year intervals, but later, if your results are right on target, you can spread them out more as you continue with your program.

Poor results could mean that you need to be stricter with yourself, but they could also indicate that you have an overlooked bone-depleting disease or some other aspect of your life that needs to be addressed. Remember, various lifestyle factors can affect osteoporosis, including the amount of exercise you get. The payoff for your persistence will be the gift of life-long healthy bones.

Other things bad to the bone

Other substances, taken in excess, also lead to calcium loss. For example, phosphorus (often found in sodas), caffeine, sugar, fats, salt and alcohol can all become significant bone robbers. Young people might not feel their negative effects that much, but the elderly (especially women) should consider giving up (or greatly curtailing) all or most of the items on this list.


Now that this article has shown you the tip of the iceberg with regards to preventable bone loss, it's up to you to bone up on all the other things you can do to help slow or block the onset of osteoporosis. (The Internet is a great place to start to gather more information.) Whether for you, or your parents, or other family members, it's a mission you can accomplish, if you take proper action now.
This article is based on content in a posting entitled "Can Osteoporosis be Prevented?", by Susan Brown, Ph.D., CCN, on the website. The information provided is, to the best of our knowledge, reliable and accurate. However, while Life Alert always strives to provide true, precise and consistent information, we cannot guarantee 100 percent accuracy. Readers are encouraged to review the original article, and use any resource links provided to gather more information before drawing conclusions and making decisions.

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A medical anthropologist and certified nutritionist, Dr. Susan Brown directs the Osteoporosis Education Project in Syracuse, NY. She is the author of "Better Bones, Better Body: A Comprehensive Self-Help Program for Preventing, Halting and Overcoming Osteoporosis" (Keats Publishing Co., 1996).

Don Rose writes books, papers and articles on computers, the Internet, AI, science and technology, and issues related to seniors.

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