May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month

24th May 2008

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 10 million Americans have the disease and that almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.

In osteoporosis, the bones are weakened by loss of bone tissue (a condition called osteopenia), making a person much more susceptible to fractures. The disorder is often a silent one, discovered only after fractures occur. In some serious cases, fractures can occur with just a sneeze.

We often equate osteoporosis with aging and women, but anorexia and other eating disorders are also risk factors for the disease, regardless of gender. Some studies have estimated that up to 85 percent of partially recovered anorexia patients have bone mineral deficiencies, even if they regain their periods and are within 10 percent of an ideal body weight. People with bulimia or ED-NOS are also at risk of osteoporosis, especially if they have had amenorrhea or significant weight loss, as well as female athletes who restrict their eating or who who have stopped menstruating. Read more about the risk factors for osteoporosis here.

According to eating disorders publisher Gurze, the mainstays of current treatment are weight restoration, normalizing body composition (particularly fat content), and use of calcium and vitamin D supplements. Estrogen supplementation (without weight gain) does not stop further bone loss or correct low bone mineral density. Still, while gaining weight may help, it may not fully restore bone mass.

The National Academy of Sciences recommends adults ages 19 – 50 incorporate at least 1,000 mg per day of calcium, preferably in calcium-rich foods and 1,200 mg per day for everyone over the age of 50. Keep in mind: You don’t have to drink your body weight in milk to get calcium, either. Green vegetables are also high in calcium, while some soy products have been calcium-fortified. For a list of recommendations, read here. Vitamin D is also important, as is regular physical activity and not smoking.

Disordered Times author Charlynn has made a list of some other great tips and advice here.

Has anyone here been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis or know someone who has? Have a great non-dairy, but high-calcium recipe to share? Discuss your experiences and suggestion below.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 24th, 2008 at 1:35 pm and is filed under Eating Disorders, Health, Nutrition & Fitness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 17 responses to “May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month”

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  1. 1 On May 24th, 2008, Charlynn said:

    I can’t stress the importance of nuts and leafy green vegetables enough. The calcium in these foods is better absorbed by dairy. Also, when it comes to supplements, calcium citrate fortified with vitamin D3 is the way to go. You’re wasting your money with anything else (and risking kidney stones).

  2. 2 On May 24th, 2008, Charlynn said:

    Whoops…I meant to add that after I’ve started taking supplements, my bones are aching much less – they used to ache all the time, like when you have a fever. I felt old and tired all the time. I don’t experience as much joint pain as I used to, either, which is nice. I hope that means the extra calcium is having an effect. :)

  3. 3 On May 24th, 2008, Charlynn said:

    Triple post! I’m on a roll! Sorry. In my first post, it should say, “The calcium in these foods is better absorbed THAN dairy.”

  4. 4 On May 24th, 2008, fetchfox said:

    I went to the site and was glad that they listed some of the meds that could interfere with calcium absorption. However, I think they should make it clear about the antiseizure medications. (AEDs, antiepileptic drugs or anti-convulsants as they are sometimes called) One of the newer AEDs that I’m on [Topamax (TPM, topiramate)] isn’t documented to cause osteopenia. However, it causes many side-effects that lead to increased susceptibility towards osteopenia. Not to mention the fact that many epileptics experiencing these effects while taking high doses of TPM have already tried dilantin, depakote, and just about every other horsey on the medication merry-go-round of AEDs.

    There is also a high comorbidity* for epilepsy and depression or other Axis I mental disorders such as bipolar disorder. So factor that in with the possibility that the person may or may not be taking an SSRI/SNRI that could also be interfering with calcium absorption.

    If you’re wondering how I know all of this, it’s because I have intractable epilepsy. I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I was dx’d w/hashi’s when I was 20. It’s very hard to control. Just last AUG my TSH jumped up to almost 180. It’s only been in the last three months that I’ve finally gotten my TSH down to .4 which is the lowest it’s been in three years.

    I just want to add this bit of information for any people taking thyroid replacement medication (such as Levoxyl, Synthroid, etc.) you should wait four hours between taking your thyroid medication and taking a calcium supplement. The calcium will prevent you from absorbing the maximum amount of your thyroid medication. The same goes for calcium based antacids.

    I don’t know if this goes for everyone with hypothyroidism, but I’ve found that avoiding soy has greatly improved my hashi’s. Perhaps it’s only pertinent to those with the autoimmune form of hypothyroidism.

  5. 5 On May 24th, 2008, Rhiannon said:

    My mother is at high risk for osteoporosis because she has hypothyroidism which she takes thyroid hormone for. This is a little known risk which is nonetheless very important to consider. She’s also “overweight” at least according to her bmi, which I only mention because being underweight is a risk factor. She’s vegan, she eats a lot of calcium rich foods such as spinach etc. Unfortunately with hypothyroidism it doesn’t matter how much calcium you ingest because your body’s natural physiological balance is impaired. Basically the thyroid hormone you take for the disease will continually drain calcium out of your bones via osteoclasts wether your level of blood calcium is low or not. Most people don’t realise that calcium is not only used in your bones, but is also necessary for normal cardiac functioning and muscle use.

    One of the most important things to do if you are at risk are weight bearing exercises. The repetitive stress of muscle pulling on bone when lifting weights, walking, basically anything that involves bearing any kind of weight, causes your bone to deposit calcium and build more bone to compensate. This is extremely important when fighting osteoporosis. This is also partially the reason why fat people don’t get osteoporosis as frequently as skinny people. So yay for fat, I say.

  6. 6 On May 24th, 2008, Rhiannon said:

    Just to add, it is still important to get enough calcium in your diet even if you have hypothyroidism. It does make a difference, it’s just counterbalanced by osteoclast activity. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not important!

  7. 7 On May 24th, 2008, fetchfox said:


    I’m not braining today. I totally forgot to add the [*] to the bottom of my post above.

    Here’s what I forgot to add:

    [*]:A concomitant but unrelated pathological or disease process.

  8. 8 On May 24th, 2008, Carrie said:

    I’ve broken all the bones in my right ankle from osteoporosis due to anorexia. Not fun. And not pretty. My mom is over 60, and my bones are way worse than hers. So scary.

    Eating enough fat in your diet is so important. Estrogen helps bone synthesis, and is ultimately derived from fats. Maintaining a healthy body weight for menstruation is the first and best thing you can do.

  9. 9 On May 24th, 2008, lilacsigil said:

    It’s taken me six years to get my underweight mother – who’s been an asthmatic all her life, another risk factor due to the inhaled corticosteroids in asthma medication – to get a bone density test. She has the position that thin=healthy, and the only way I persuaded her was to remind her that her mother had osteoporosis and that she should get a scan now that they can use as a baseline for later scans. Use this line on your baby boomer parents who don’t think they’re old – it works! It turned out that she had mild osteoporosis in her legs and all of her spine, and moderate osteoporosis in her thoracic vertebrae. Now she’s getting treatment before getting a low impact fracture, and for that I’m very pleased with myself!

    I’m fat and active, and get plenty of dietary calcium. Unfortunately, I had thyroid cancer and am on thyroxin, which affects the bones (as mentioned above) and also the teeth. Therefore, I take a calcium supplement. It’s also helped with the muscle cramps that thyroxin gives me – it’s an unusual but documented side-effect.

  10. 10 On May 25th, 2008, sso said:

    I was diagnosed with osteopenia at 19…and I’m convinced the only reason I didn’t have full-blown osteoporosis is that I probably started out with unusually dense bones to begin with. My almost-60-year-old mother had a bone density scan recently, and the doctor was stunned at how good her bones were. “Great even for an 18 year old” is what he said. I haven’t had a full bone scan since then, but I’ve had the heel version for the last couple years at the health fair at work, and reportedly my bones are up to low-normal density now. I’m still underweight, but nowhere near as badly as I was at 19. I do make sure to take calcium every day now, though. I’ve known too many other anorexics who have osteoporosis at very young ages.

  11. 11 On May 25th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Thanks Rhiannon and Fetchfox for the added info on hypothyroidism. I have hypo and take Synthroid and my doctor has never mentioned this to me before.

    Carrie – Ouch! Do you take any medication or supplements for your osteoporosis now? I ask because I’ve seen tv ads recently for new medications that purport to treat it.

  12. 12 On May 25th, 2008, Melissa said:

    Longtime lurker, first time poster. I am 32 and have osteopenia. I use the three pronged approach to bone density.
    1) increase calcium
    2) increase weight bearing exercises
    3) have adequate estrogen, especially estradiol.

    As for non dairy sources of calcium, leafy greens are good in moderation, but those like spinach, chard, collard greens, etc. are high in oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption. From what I am read, it’s generally not a problem as long as you are getting calcium from other sources and you don’t have an underlying condition like RA.

    Other good sources: Beans, broccoli, tofu, calcium fortified soy milk and orange juice.

    I really appreciate your blog. Such a voice of reason in the sea of commercial chaos!

  13. 13 On May 25th, 2008, Fat Girl said:

    I’m currently in treatment for my eating disorder and more than half of the girls in treatment with me have either osteopenia or osteoporosis.

    Our main source of calcium for treatment is Yogurt and Kafir, as well as fruits/veggies, etc. But it’s so scary, I never knew until I came to treatment how big a problem it is- and to see girls my age with full blown osteoporosis is SO scary.

  14. 14 On May 25th, 2008, deja pseu said:

    I also had my thyroid removed 18 months ago due to thyroid cancer, and now take Synthroid. My doc has never mentioned the risk to bone mass. However I just had my first bone density scan, and the results were very good. At 51 my bone mass is well within the normal range, and my risk of a fracture in the next 10 years is “very low.” I’m taking the 1200 mg of calcium + vitamin D daily, in addition to all of the dairy and leafy greens I normally eat. I read somewhere that complications from osteoporosis are the second leading cause of death in women over 60 (after heart disease).

  15. 15 On May 26th, 2008, PureAgeless said:

    I think the sad thing is that there are so many nasty diseases about but we are not taught in school about them and what we can do to avoid them. If we knew what it was like to suffer from these nasty disease from a young age, it may make us less likely to abuse our bodies. I saw people get unwell from smoking related disease when I was a child and it put me off smoking for life.

  16. 16 On May 26th, 2008, Eilish said:

    So much good info here, but I just wanted to add a couple more. Please remember that calcium is slowly absorbed and your body can’t absorb more than about 500 mg at a time. One in am and one in pm is ideal. Also needed (as I believe someone mentioned is Vitamin D, but also magnesium! For our non-vegan friends here this can be accomplished very easily by taking a calcium supplement or your calcium rich foods with fish oil which is just chock-full of all sorts of healthy stuff you probably aren’t getting anyway (unless you eat a lot of fish). Does someone have a good suggestion for a vegan alternative to fish oil?

  17. 17 On May 30th, 2008, fetchfox said:


    Since no one else has answered, I did a search for you and the following information w/links is what I found. I’m not a vegan/vegetarian, so I can’t vouch for the quality of the site or information. So please don’t take my word for it and do more research for yourself.

    Here is the URL I got the information from:

    Here is the information:
    If you’re looking for a good vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids—which are the main reason people take fish oil supplements—try flaxseeds.

    The information that you’ll be looking for is about 1/6th of the way down the page. It would probably help to search the page for the word “omega” and it will be the second occurrence of the term.

    If I’ve posted bad information, please delete. I know nothing of veganism/vegetarianism.

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