Q: My mother has osteoporosis and I understand it can be inherited. I’m now 47 and wonder what I can do to reduce the risks.
A: Osteoporosis means porous bones, where bone density is reduced leading to a higher risk of fracture, which can have fatal: consequences. (Osteopenia is low bone density but not full-blown osteoporosis.) One in two women in the UK – and one in nine men – suffers from osteoporosis but you can act to prevent and/or treat it, says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville (marilynglenville.com), author of Osteoporosis: The Silent Epidemic (Kyle Books, £10.99), which I recommend highly.
Up to 85 per cent of bone development may be genetically determined. But bone density can also be affected by lack of the right nutrients, so continuous dieting, anorexia or gut problems (eg irritable bowel syndrome or Crohns disease) may put you at risk. Other risk factors include too little exercise, smoking, and some medications (eg steroids or antacids).
If you think you’re at risk, have a bone density scan. Talk to your GP about your positive family history and ask for a scan. It’s not always easy to get one on the NHS so some opt to go privately.
Oestrogen helps protect bones. Women who have irregular cycles or miss periods for any reason before the age of 40 risk losing significant bone density. There’s some evidence that plant oestrogens may help bone density: try Novogen RedClover (£20.60 for 30 tablets), or Higher Nature Menopause Relief with black cohosh, £11.15 for 30 tablets.
Exercise can help. Combine weight-bearing activities (eg walking, dancing, tennis etc) with weight-resistance activities (swimming, riding, pilates, weight training). Yoga achieves both.
Vitamins and minerals are vital for bone health. Calcium (as citrate not carbonate) improves bone density and reduces the risk of fractures. Magnesium helps metabolise calcium and, with boron, converts vitamin D3 to the form that ensures calcium is efficiently absorbed. Vitamin C (ascorbate not ascorbic acid) is needed to make collagen, the ‘cement’ that knits the bone matrix. Dr Glenville uses NHP’s OsteoSupport, £20.87 for 90 capsules, which contains all these nutrients plus digestive enzymes,
Aim for a more alkaline diet. Calcium stored in your bones is leeched to neutralise acid. So the more acidic your diet is, the higher the risk of fracture. Eating a lot of animal protein – the most acid- forming foods – is linked to lower bone density. So cut down on meat and cheese (milk and yogurt are more alkaline). Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole (unrefined) grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Good As Golden
Lanolips 101 Ointment and tinted Lip Ointments, both based on pure medical grade lanolin, went straight into the skincare hall of fame when they were launched. Now Lanolips founder Kirsten Carriol has married lanolin with two other skin-cherishing naturals – manuka honey and vitamin E – to make Lovely Lanolin Golden Ointment. The impetus came from a leading burns doctor in Australia who told Kirsten she used pure lanolin on burns to help wound healing. While 101 Ointment remains gold standard for small areas, Golden Ointment is specifically designed to spread over larger areas of critically dry and/or compromised skin. £17.99 for 50g
The Truth About Green Tea
Green, black and white tea all contain some health-supporting antioxidants. The amount (and type) depends on the specific variety of tea and the processing.
Green tea tends to be less processed than black tea. Less processing means more antioxidants (sometimes more than a helping of fruit or veg), and less caffeine. The big difference for all types is between industrially processed tea bags, and hand-tended whole leaf tea.
Green tea has about half the caffeine in black. Brewed coffee has more than double. White tea (the least processed) has the least caffeine of all.
Health claims are inconclusive so far. A review of 51 studies with over 1.6 million participants said the evidence that green tea may help reduce the risk of cancer (and other diseases) was conflicting. Some studies show an association, others don’t. But research is ongoing.
Be careful if you’re anaemic. Tea is generally safe but some compounds (in all teas) may impair iron absorption so cut down/out if you have low iron levels.
It’s Wheely Useful
My mummy tester recommends the Scoot N Pull strap, so you can pull your tired toddler home on their scooter. You can also keep them close by in busy places, or when they’re just learning and haven’t got full control of their wheels. The lead converts to a shoulder strap so you can sling the scooter over your shoulder. £6.99 inc p&p from scootnpull.co.uk. NB Testers loved the range of fold-up scooters from micro-scooters.co.uk. But please do wear helmets.