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Are You Consuming Enough Calcium?

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Around 200 million women worldwide suffer from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterised by low bone density. Sufferers have weak and brittle bones which fracture more easily compared to those of healthy adults. For those afflicted with osteoporosis, even a minor fall or bump may result in a serious fracture.

Osteoporosis is a growing health concern in Singapore which has an aging population. Figures cited on the website of the Osteoporosis Society (Singapore) show that number of osteoporotic hip fractures in women aged over 50 in Singapore increased five-fold in a span of thirty years since 1960s. The increase was 1.5 times for men in the same age group.

Today is World Osteoporosis Day which takes place on Oct 20 every year. This is a global campaign, organised by the International Osteoporosis Foundation, dedicated to raising awareness on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.

What do you know about osteoporosis, how can you prevent it and keep healthy?

There  are  usually  no  signs  or symptoms of osteoporosis in its early stage, but suffers may experi­ ence back pain, a decrease in height or sustain fractures in later stages of the disease. (Source: Brochure on osteoporosis by Ministry of Health.)

The risk of osteoporosis increases with age. Osteoporosis occurs when bone production is less than bone loss. The average adu lt reaches peak bone mass between the ages of 25 and 30. In women, bone loss usually occurs after age SO, and age 65 for men.

WHO ARE AT RISK OF DEVELOP­ ING OSTEOPOROSIS?

Dr Stanley Liew, a specialist and consultant at Raffles Hospital's Diabetes and Endocrine Centre said: "Post-menopausal  women, the elderly above 65 years of age, smokers, women with slender builds, and those who consume excessive alcohol face the biggest risks of contracting osteoporosis." During the onset of menopause, the amount of estrogen in the body decreases. The loss of estrogen which protects bones is linked to significant bone loss. You can help protect your bones with a diet high in calcium.

GETTING ADEQUATE CALCIUM

On the average, healthy adults aged between 19 and SO need 800mg of calcium in their diet daily to maintain healthy bones. Those aged 51 and above should consume l,000mg of calcium daily. A national nutrition survey done by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) in 2010 shows that the  average  Singaporean consumes 794mg of calcium daily.

SOURCES OF CALCIUM

Part of a balanced diet is one that includes calcium-rich foods such as dairy product s, tofu, and  dark green leafy vegetables.

Dr Liew said that calcium supple­ments may be required for some individuals who do not have a sufficient intake of calcium  in their diet.

Calcium supplements are available in several forms - calcium carbonate  which is the cheapest form, as well as other forms like calcium citrate, gluconate, lactate, and phosphate. Some of these supplements are made from   unrefined   oyster   shell, shellfish, bone meal, or dolomite. They may have high levels of lead and other toxic metals which may be harmful to your body. A  study  on  the  association  of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality published in 2012 concluded that while increasing dietary calcium intake did not confer significant cardiovascular benefits, calcium supplements, which may raise the risk of myocardial infarctions should be taken with caution.

When selecting calcium supplements, pay attention to the supplement label and note the amount of elemental calcium (actual calcium contained in the supplement which will be absorbed by the body) as well as the source of the calcium. Labels will generally include the percentage of recom­mended daily intake that the supplement provides.

Calcium supplements derived from naturally rich sources of calcium allow for optimal absorption. Omical is a calcium supplement from pure organic natural milk. Low in lactose and fat, Omical is free of arsenic, lead, mercury, pesticide s, steroids, hormones and antibiotics. Each Omical tablet provides 250mg of elemental calcium - the equivalent of one glass of milk.

STAYING ACTIVE AND HEALTHY

Combating osteoporosis should start from childhood .Dr Liew said: "Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence to achieve maximum bone mass is important to lower the risk of osteoporosis occurring during old age."

He suggested that apart from a well-balanced diet with sufficient calcium, there are other ways to lower your risk of developing osteoporosis.

"Doing weight bearing exercises regularly, getting 15 minutes of sunlight exposure daily for the production of vitamin D, and limiting one's smoking and alcohol intake can also help prevent osterporosis," said Dr Liew.