Milk and More: Eating Right for Your Bones

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Summary & Participants

Calcium is an essential part of a good osteoporosis prevention plan. Low calcium intake has been shown to cause low bone mass, so you need to get the right amount starting early in life. But how much calcium is enough? Are you getting enough in your regular diet? Join us as we discuss the dietary requirements for effective osteoporosis prevention.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2012

Webcast Transcript

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Welcome to our webcast. I'm Dr. David Marks. When I say "osteoporosis prevention," the first word that should pop into your head is "calcium." Low calcium intake has been shown to cause low bone mass. You need to get the right amounts starting early in life. But how much is enough, and can you get enough from your diet alone?

Joining me to talk about calcium, as well as some other dietary issues, is Dr. Paula Rackoff. She's Assistant Chief of Rheumatology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Thanks for being here.

Now tell me, if you have bone density that's normal now, what role does that play in your chances of getting the disease later on?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: It really depends on what age you have had the bone density test and whether it's determined to be normal relating to someone your own age.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: So if a person is under 30, let's say, and they have normal bone density, is that a good sign?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: That's a very good sign. It's really a problem if before the age of 30 you don't have a normal bone density.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Can they increase their prevention by taking more calcium?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Well, calcium and vitamin D can help maintain the bone density that you have, and there are some studies that show that there can even be a small increase in bone density with full calcium and vitamin D supplementation. Certainly, if you don't have enough calcium and vitamin D, then you're assured of bone loss.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: How common is that?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Actually, it's quite common. The average American male or female only gets about 700 mg of calcium in their diet, so calcium deficiency is quite common. Vitamin D deficiency in young people is less common because we actually only need about 15 minutes of sun exposure for the active form of vitamin D to get into our circulation. When we're older, beyond 55 years of age, that's when vitamin D deficiency becomes more common.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: How can this be so when we have all these calcium-enriched foods and a lot of advertising about calcium supplementation? Why is it that people aren't getting enough in their diet?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: I think it depends where you live, and how well aware you are of the calcium-rich foods. I think much of America is still being fed fast-food diets, and there isn't a lot of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in those foods.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: So what kind of foods should people be eating?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: For calcium, it's really dairy products, juices that are fortified in calcium, and green, leafy vegetables. For vitamin D it's vitamin D fortified milk, egg yolks, and salt water fish.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: What is the number of milligrams that a person should get?

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