For more than 55 percent of Americans over age 50, osteoporosis — characterized by reduced bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue — is an unfortunate reality. Osteoporosis often leads to fragile bones and increased risk of fractures. That’s why the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) established World Osteoporosis Day, which takes place every year on Oct. 20 — to spread awareness about osteoporosis, its causes, treatment and prevention.
Osteoporosis has been called a geriatric disease that begins in childhood, but you could also think of it as a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences because the magnitude of bone mass developed the time a child reaches young adulthood is an important predictor of osteoporosis later in life. Research continues to support the current daily recommendation of three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods for children and adolescents ages 9 years and older. This, along with adequate physical activity, helps achieve peak bone mass.
Calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients needed for growing and maintaining teeth and bones throughout your life, and children and adolescents who develop strong, healthy bones are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life. The importance of these nutrients isn’t just for kids, either; adult bones also need daily nourishment to help reduce bone mass loss and maintain bones’ longevity.
Milk is the No. 1 food source of both calcium and vitamin D in the American diet, and it also contains high-quality protein, phosphorus and potassium. However, after age 6, most Americans don’t consume the recommended servings of dairy foods. You can get calcium other ways, but meeting daily recommendations without dairy foods can be difficult.
Although osteoporosis occurs in older age, it is at least partially a result of your diet and physical activity during those peak bone-building years before the age of 30. The good news is you are never too old (or too young) to improve your bone health. You can do many things to help keep your bones strong and healthy at all ages, and making dairy a regular part of your diet is a great start.
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