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Losing Weight? Protect Your Bones with these Tips

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When you lose weight, it affects your entire system-including your bones. When losing weight, ensure you protect your bone health by employing the following bone-building techniques as you drop the pounds.

Did you know that rapid weight loss could be adversely affecting your bone health?

According to a 2006 study from Rutgers University, diets may cause bone damage. In the study, dieters' bone density was tracked over a period of 6 months. In that time, their bone density dropped by 3 percent.

A similar study, conducted by Washington University in St. Louis looked at 46 men with an average age of 57 who were overweight and exercised little. Over a course of several months, 36 men restricted their calories in order to lose weight without exercise. At the end of the study, the men lost bone density in the hips, spine, and upper legs. These are the same areas where osteoporosis is likely to form in elderly persons.

Why Diets Cause Bone Density Loss

According to the study researchers, rapid weight loss leads to rapid bone density loss. Restricting calories cause a shift in the production of estrogen, cortisol, and parathyroid hormones. This causes your body to absorb fewer nutrients, particularly from calcium sources. Weight loss pills containing anabolic steroids will also lead to faster bone loss. Many steroids lower bone density. Movement stimulates new bone growth, according to Web MD. A lack of movement combined with rapid weight loss will result in fast bone density deterioration.

Other Factors Harming Bone Health

Smoking and alcohol use can also harm bone health. According to Primal Kaur, MD, an osteoporosis specialist at Temple University Health System, smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your bone health. Smoking generates free radicals that attack the body’s natural defenses. This upsets the balance of hormones, cell health, and organ health.

For women, smoking is particularly bad for the bones. Smoking interferes with the production of estrogen and triggers the liver to create estrogen-destroying enzymes. A lack of estrogen causes bones to deteriorate faster. Smoking also increases cortisol levels in the body, which are directly linked to bone loss. Smoking also slows the production of the hormone calcitonin, which is essential for building bone mass. The osteoblasts, which make up bone cells, are also impeded by nicotine. Smoking damages blood vessels, which are essential for bone health. According to Web MD, individuals who smoke are twice as likely to break a bone.

Excessive alcohol intake can also lead to a loss of bone health. Just like smoking, drinking more than about 3 ounces of alcohol a day will interfere with the hormone production of estrogen, increase cortisol production, and interfere with osteoblasts. Alcohol can also increase the production of parathyroid hormone, which leads to bone mass loss. Alcohol also has other effects. Alcohol causes the pancreas to absorb less calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients essential for bone health. Alcohol also prevents the stomach from absorbing calcium effectively.

Women at Greater Risk for Diet-Related Bone Loss

Many women are serial dieters, hopping from one diet program to another. If a woman is constantly in the stage of losing weight but doesn’t also practice weight-bearing exercises, she is at a much higher risk for bone density problems. Women lose bone density faster than men, mainly after menopause.

Menopause interferes with the production of estrogen, which causes bone density levels to drop suddenly. However, pregnancy can also lead to a loss of bone mass well before menopause. When women combine naturally-lower bone density levels with the potential for bone loss through dieting, their risk of seeing bone problems, and potentially osteoporosis, increases.

Keep Bones Healthy During Weight Loss

Obesity is also bad for bone health. Although it is true that bones do increase in mass to account for the extra weight accumulated by obesity, being overweight has an overall detrimental effect on the bones.

A 2010 study conducted by the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center showed that over time, bone mass decreases due to obesity. The researchers concluded that the results may be caused by an increase in marrow adipogenesis at the expense of osteoblastogenesis, or due to several other reasons, one of which could be reduced levels of calcium absorption due to high fat intake.

So, what can you do to ensure you protect your bone health while losing weight? Fortunately, healthy weight loss is not detrimental to bone health.

According to the Center for Disease Control, a healthy weight loss goal is around 1-2 pounds a week. Any more than that could harm your bones by raising stress levels and reducing hormone production in the body. Rapid weight loss can also interfere with how many nutrients you absorb, like vitamin D and calcium. To ensure you keep your bones healthy while losing weight, employ these effective weight-loss strategies and bone-boosting moves:

Ensure Adequate Calcium Intake

To protect your bones while dieting, you must ensure you get enough calcium every day. According to Web MD, the ideal calcium range is around 1,200 mg per day, but adults over age 50 should aim to get 1,500 mg per day. The best source of calcium is food. Foods that are calcium-rich provide not only the benefits of calcium but also provide other essential nutrients for health.

Foods High in Calcium
  • Milk (240 mg)
  • Yogurt (240 mg)
  • Cheese (150-300 depending on the type)
  • Kale (160 mg)
  • Sardines (500 mg)
  • Whitebait fish (680 mg)
  • Figs (500 mg)
  • Apricots (100 mg)

You can also try supplementing with a calcium supplement to ensure you reach the recommended daily intake of around 1,500 mg. Calcium supplements can be beneficial for supplementing a diet otherwise lacking in calcium. For example, a vegan or someone who is lactose intolerant may need to supplement additional calcium to reach necessary daily levels. Supplementing with calcium in addition to eating calcium-rich foods can also make up for any deficiencies in calcium on a day-to-day basis.

Exercise Regularly

According to the studies above, only individuals who did not combine dieting with exercise lost bone mass. Exercise is effective for weight loss and providing strength in both muscles and bones. The National Institute of Health states that after age 30, men and women start to lose bone mass. However, regular exercise can reduce the pace of bone density loss and may even help prevent loss altogether. Young people who exercise build greater bone density than those who do not exercise on a regular basis.

The National Institute of Health states that the best exercises to build strong bones are weight-bearing exercises. Any exercise that bears your weight or the weight of something else is ideal for protecting your bone health while you exercise. 30 to 90 minutes of exercise per day provides the biggest benefit both for weight loss and bone health. 

Weight Loss Exercises for Bones
  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Weight training
  • Tennis
  • Dancing
  • Climbing stairs

Take Bone-Building Supplements

Another step you can take to ensure that you protect your bones during weight loss is by adding supplements to your diet that protect your bones. Calcium, is of course, extremely vital for the bones, but other supplements can also provide benefits. These supplements will help maintain bone health as you lose weight:

Calcium citrate: According to Web MD, calcium citrate is the most absorbable form of calcium. Calcium is not only beneficial for building strong bones, but it also helps with other functions in the body. Calcium is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and effective weight loss. According to a 2004 study from the University of Tennessee, obese patients who ate a high calcium diet (800 mg of calcium) lost about 8 percent of their body weight, while obese patients who ate a high-dairy diet (1200 to 1300 mg of dietary calcium) lost 19 percent of their body weight within 24 weeks.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is another nutrient important for weight loss and bone health. Vitamin D supports efficient bone health, the immune system, and is essential for the effective absorption of calcium.

Vitamin K: Vitamin K is overlooked in the vitamin arena, but it is surprisingly beneficial for both bone health and weight loss. Vitamin K is an important nutrient for bone health. According to the University of Maryland, individuals with higher vitamin K levels in the blood also have higher bone density levels. Beef, liver, and dark leafy greens all contain high levels of vitamin K naturally. Freezing a substance may destroy vitamin K levels.

Magnesium: Magnesium may be the miracle mineral that many Americans are lacking. Magnesium offers many benefits, including supplementing calcium levels and makes calcium more absorbable by both the bones and muscles. Magnesium is also essential for maintaining energy levels, which help promote weight loss by giving you enough energy to exercise and burn more calories.

Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is essential for proper digestion, body clock regulation, and the immune system. These benefits are necessary during weight loss to protect the health of the body while maintaining a restricted-calorie diet.

L-Tyrosine: L-tyrosine is an amino acid naturally found in dairy products and nuts. It is useful for reducing the stress effect on the body caused by restricting calories. This could lead to faster weight loss and weight loss maintenance in dieters.

Lose Weight Slowly

Rapid weight loss leads to faster bone mass deterioration. The faster you lose weight, the faster bone density levels drop. Combining healthy weight loss with exercise will help reduce any effects of bone loss in your body and give your bones time to rebuild if any deterioration has occurred. According to the Center for Disease Control, the most effective and healthiest speed for long-term weight loss is between one and two pounds per week.

Losing Weight Without Bone Damage

Your bones are essential to your overall health. Rapid weight loss without paying special attention to your bone health will cause your bones to deteriorate faster, leading to a wide range of skeletal issues. However, with the right diet, weight loss rate, exercise plan, and supplements, you can protect the health of your bones and reach a healthy weight. Before you start any new diet plan, make sure you strategize for overall health, not just dropping weight or reaching a smaller dress size. Women particularly should watch out for their bone health while dieting, as women are more susceptible to bone loss anyway.





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