What nutrients can help reduce postmenopausal bone loss?

After menopause, bone breakdown outpaces the building of new bone, which results in a gradual loss of bone mass and puts women at an increased risk of osteoporosis. This is largely because of the sharp drop in oestrogen that occurs, a hormone that has a protective effect on bones throughout a woman’s life. It is estimated that the average woman loses up to 10% of her bone mass in the first five years after menopause, which can have an effect on her bone health and strength over time. Fortunately, there are steps a woman can take to support her bone health, slow the rate of postmenopausal bone loss and protect bones from becoming weak and brittle.

1. Get enough calcium every day

Calcium is a major structural component of bone tissue and is required for the maintenance of strong, healthy bones. A diet deficient in calcium can lead to osteoporosis in later life. Women over the age of 51 require at least 1300mg of calcium a day to support bone health and offset their bone losses, which can be achieved by consuming good dietary sources of calcium such as milk and milk products, leafy green vegetables or canned sardines and salmon and/or taking a calcium supplement.

2. Ensure adequate vitamin D

Vitamin D is also essential for the development and maintenance of bones as it helps the body efficiently absorb and utilise calcium from the food we eat. Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight and is also available in some foods and supplements. Supplemental vitamin D becomes especially important for those who avoid the sun, have naturally dark skin, wear concealing clothing or are older whereby the capacity for skin synthesis of vitamin D is reduced.