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Increasing Calcium in diet for Osteoporosis

(110 Posts)
RedRidingHood Thu 21-Sep-23 15:56:25

I have osteoporosis and as well as bisphosphonates I was prescribed calcium and vitamin D supplements.
I'm reading more and more that there is a risk of the calcium affecting arteries and decided to see if I can get enough in diet alone.
calcium supplementation, but not dietary calcium, positively correlates with abdominal aorta calcification in postmenopausal women

I had a discussion with a specialist nurse at the Royal Osteoporosis Society and she said I would need 1.5g of calcium a day (which is quite a lot), plus you need vitamin D to help absorption.

I am going to try and really boost the calcium in my diet but could do with some tips.
I don't like tofu which is a shame as it's very rich in calcium. Not keen on cheese but can tolerate a little. I eat Greek yoghurt every day and use skimmed milk which is slightly higher in calcium than semi.

Skydancer Thu 21-Sep-23 16:09:07

I am on the same medication as you plus the calcium tablets. I had not heard about calcium affecting arteries. But I do remember reading years ago that once someone has been diagnosed with osteoporosis it is far too late to take calcium anyway as it is ineffective. Does anyone really know? I am never happy taking anything really but I suppose we have to have faith in the doctors.

RedRidingHood Thu 21-Sep-23 16:27:03

I was very underwhelmed with the information I got from doctors about osteoporosis. After a year of me asking for a bone scan my Rheumatologist finally agreed. When I saw him again he just said by the way you have osteoporosis I will get your GP to prescribe something.
It's only from my own reading up on the subject I have learned about it. You need more protein - no-one told me that. Impact excercise makes a difference - no-one told me that.

You are right though, the foundations of good bones are built in your teens and 20s. I wish I could go back in time and tell my 13 year old self to eat more calcium and do some exercise.

There seems to be very little evidence that taking calcium supplements actually helps osteoporosis.

Callistemon21 Thu 21-Sep-23 16:59:01

You are right though, the foundations of good bones are built in your teens and 20s. I wish I could go back in time and tell my 13 year old self to eat more calcium and do some exercise

I didnt know that, thank you.

Well, I did do exercise but did I eat enough calcium-rich foods?

Farmor15 Thu 21-Sep-23 17:21:22

Sorry this link is so long!,of%20fracture%20and%20hip%20fracture.

Information about dairy products as a source of calcium is rather contradictory. I had read some years ago about a long term study in US about milk drinking and osteoporosis - that study suggested that milk was not very helpful.

The article linked to above suggests "Make sure you’re eating an adequate amount of calcium by including cheese, yogurt, greens (collards, kale), soybeans, figs, broccoli, oranges, sardines and salmon (with bones) and many fortified foods into your food rotation."

I was surprised when I found my bones weren't great some years ago when I signed up for a study on the effect of exercise on bone health. When I was younger, I drank a lot of milk and took plenty of exercise. But I preferred swimming and cycling to weight bearing exercise, so it didn't do me much good. However, after a year of the exercise programme - weights, jumping with straight legs and various other quite strenuous stuff, my bones did improve, without any drugs or supplements. But most participants in the study dropped out as their bodies weren't able for the kind of exercise needed to help bones!

Granny23 Thu 21-Sep-23 17:21:26

I broke my arm 2 years ago and my wrist this year, leading to a diagnosis of Osteoporosis. I have been given a prescription for m 5mg Folic ACID to be taken daily and told to eat lots of dark green vegetables - Which I have always done anyway. Unfortunately, I have an allergy/incompatibility to all things cheesy, including yoghurt, cremefraich, etc. so have never, knowingly eaten these since birth. Each episode when I have swallowed a mere mouthful by mistake has lead to a week of sickness and diarrhea until it gets out of my system.
What could I safely eat that contains Calcium but not the bacterium that converts milk into the cheesy stuff?

Farmor15 Thu 21-Sep-23 17:24:00

Tinned bony fish like sardines and tinned salmon are a good source of calcium. The canning process softens the bones so you can eat them, but not everyone likes this type of fish.

RedRidingHood Thu 21-Sep-23 17:57:43

Sardines do have a lot of calcium, I wonder how you can make them palatable?
I do eat lots of green leafy veg, plus greek yoghurt every day, almonds are good. Tofu is another thing I struggle to enjoy.

I feel like it needs to be something you like to build in enough to stop the tablets.

@Farmor15 thanks for that, I need to look into thatmore as I was hoping to massively increase my milk intake as one easy win

Dottydots Thu 21-Sep-23 18:44:14

Oh dear, since my osteoporosis diagnosis I have been drinking 3 to 4 mugs of milk a day, thinking it is doing me good After reading the above
comments I'm not so sure now, so will revert to one mug a day.

TerriBull Thu 21-Sep-23 18:55:53

My late mother had osteoporosis in her final years so I've become far more aware of the condition. I too read about calcium deposits on arteries apropos of taking those tablets, which alarmed me so much at the time I stopped. I try to factor calcium into my diet via daily Greek yogurt and other relevant food stuffs like salmon. Load bearing exercises are quite important for bone strength and that was something I did quite a bit at the gym before Covid struck, I've let all that lapse somewhat but I need to start going again.

M0nica Thu 21-Sep-23 19:08:46

I have just been diagnosed with osteoporosis following a dexa scan that showed that at some time, not sure when, I had fractured some vertibrae. I have a weak ankle and dyspraxia and fall over regulalry but have never broken anything, vertibrae apart.

I do not drink milk or eat yoghourt. It makes me feel sick and queasy and I may be mildly lactose intolerant, but I have always loved hard cheese, every member of the brassica family and have always walked and exercised a lot. I went on the Royal Osteoporosis Society site and completed their questionnaire abut the probability of having osteoporosis and the answer was I didn't have any of the conditions or life style choices that make it probable, heigh ho!

I have been taking a Vitamin D supplement for some years, but despite that and eating plentyof calcium high foods, it doesn't seem to have stopped me developing it.

I am on Alendronic acid and have been told that that and plenty of calcium will lead to my bones becoming stronger, and someone on the other osteoporosis thread said that aftersome years on ti, their bones were back to the average for their age.

My go to calcium supplement has become Lite Babibels. Those little edam, red wax covered baby cheeses. Each one contains just short of 20% of your daily calcium requirement and only 42 calories. I am also eating more oranges, which are also relatively high in calcium. i have replaced an apple a day with a n ornage a day.

TerriBull Thu 21-Sep-23 19:17:55

I'll be looking for Babbibels again following your post Monica, I remember putting them in my children's lunch boxes years ago.

arum Thu 21-Sep-23 19:26:42

Calcium also needs magnesium. Magnesium is a "transporter", and carries the calcium to where it is needed. Without magnesium, calcium gets deposited in the arteries. Vitamin D3 is also a "bone builder" and needs Vitamin K2 to increase its effect.

growstuff Thu 21-Sep-23 19:33:18

MOnica Several studies show that intrauterine fetal bone mineralization or early postnatal bone condition influences the risk of osteoporosis in later life. In other words, if your mother lacked Vitamin D or calcium in her diet while she was pregnant, it could have affected you. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you were a wartime baby, so that is very possible.

People reach peak bone mass in their twenties. After that, they lose more bone mass than they gain. People can slow down the loss with diet and exercise, but it's inevitable and your risk might have increased before you were even born. I doubt if you had your peak bone mass tested when you were in your twenties and it's suggested that this is a risk factor for osteoporosis, as are genetic factors.

I have osteopenia, so I did some research on this. Too much calcium can indeed cause problems, such as kidney stones and interference with how your heart and brain work. High calcium levels can also cause joint pain. My GP recommended that I didn't take calcium supplements because my diet should provide me with enough, but that depends on the individual.

Wolwol Thu 21-Sep-23 19:50:53

@RedRidingHood Regular yogurt contains more calcium than Greek, which might be helpful (or not!)?

MayBee70 Thu 21-Sep-23 20:28:11


Calcium also needs magnesium. Magnesium is a "transporter", and carries the calcium to where it is needed. Without magnesium, calcium gets deposited in the arteries. Vitamin D3 is also a "bone builder" and needs Vitamin K2 to increase its effect.

That’s good to know because that’s pretty much what I take. You can’t take K2 if you’re on blood thinners I believe though.I, too, stopped going to the gym because of covid and must start going again.

Callistemon21 Thu 21-Sep-23 20:34:49

Osteocare tablets contain Vitamin D, calcium and magnesium plus other minerals such as zinc.

Magnesium helps to prevent cramp too.

M0nica Thu 21-Sep-23 20:50:44

That is interesting, *growstuff, yes, I was born in 1943, by which time the nutrition of expectant mothers and children featured high on government plans.
The Ministries of Health and Food instigated a food supplementation policy at the end of 1942 that entitled pregnant women in the UK to extra rations of fruit, dairy produce and to a supply of cod-liver-oil tablets.

As I was born in late August 1943, my mother would have had the benefit of this for her whole pregancy. Unlike me she loved milk and would have consumed every drop she was given.

Beyond being blindsided by the diagnosis because I was not obviously at risk. I am not particularly bothered by it. I am just finding ways of upping my calcium intake through food, which as I love hard cheese, is not proving difficult. I had a lovely cheese sald for supper today, and snacked on a lite baby bel mid morning. I would have had a second one this afternoon, but I was out.

Since I have had no help or advice from the hospital, I am having to sort out my own salvation. I know many people find the Royal Osteoporosis Society site very good. Unfortunately I find it too actively gentle and caring in tone for my taste. I am/was a professional researcher and prefer my facts hard, referenced and numerical.

RedRidingHood Thu 21-Sep-23 20:59:36

As someone who hates cheese I could manage a baby bel!

Osteoporosis is a funny one. You don't have any symptoms, don't feel ill in any way but the problem comes when you break a major bone. Hip and femur fractures can affect your quality of life long term. Not to mention spinal fractures. My grandmother used to be a tall woman and was tiny and stooped by the time she was late 70s.

I do take magnesium for heart health but a warning about vitamin K2, it caused me massive stomach problems when I took it in April and it has taken until now to recover.

growstuff Thu 21-Sep-23 23:04:48

To be honest MOnica, I'm not sure if the hospital could tell you anything you haven't already found out. I assume you've been give the results of your DEXA scan. When I was sent mine, there was a brief explanation about what the figures meant, but I Googled it anyway.

I'm having another scan next year because the post-cancer meds I've been given can cause bone density loss.

I haven't been given anything for the osteopenia, but the GP told me to continue taking Vit D (which I have for years anyway) and not to bother with calcium supplements because I eat loads of dairy, green veg and sardines. I was told to keep on walking, doing step exercises, etc. That was all over the phone. I had the impression that osteoporosis is so common that the NHS just doesn't have the resources to see everybody face-to-face.

nanna8 Fri 22-Sep-23 00:16:00

I used to get kidney stones from time to time and they told me to avoid taking calcium tablets. That was in the 1980s so I don’t know if that would still be the case.

M0nica Fri 22-Sep-23 09:09:56

RRH My osteoporosis was discovered by chance when I had a DEXA scan for a UK Biobank surveey. I had some cracked vertibrae but have no idea when the damage was done, possible in a fall over 12 years ago, otherwise I have never, in my life broken a bone, despite regular falls. I have shrunk in height, but that is about all - and only half an inch more than would be expected anyway.

I just consider that you should be seen just once by the doctor. People can be showing symptoms and problems in actuality that may not show up merely on a Dexa scan. Overall levels of frailty - or not can only be seen and this could be important in designing treatment or giving advice.

I have been given no advice on diet or exercise by any doctor. Just an enquiry about whether I took vitamin D, I do, and a referral to a 'leaflet online. Fine for me who is a trained reearcher and can and will find the information I need, but there will be many out there, especially among the most frail who do not use computers, have no broad nutritional knowledge, and would benefit from referral to a dietician or physiotherapist.

growstuff Fri 22-Sep-23 12:11:23

Sorry, but I don't really see what a meeting with a doctor would achieve other than reading out to you the leaflets you can read for yourself online.

If you actually had a break, you would be treated and probably given further advice, but you don't have symptoms. If your overall frailty were high, you would probably already be seen by your GP for other reasons. Unfortunately, they are already under enough pressure to see people where they can make a difference.

growstuff Fri 22-Sep-23 12:12:49

My discussion about osteopenia was part of my cancer review.

missdeke Sun 24-Sep-23 11:29:40

On my osteoporosis diagnosis I was prescribed calcium tablets, unfortunately they made me extremely nauseous and I had to stop taking them. I try to keep my calcium levels up with my diet.