Preventing Bone Loss Naturally
by Adelbert Nelissen
Every year we renew about 5% of our bones cells until we die. At birth, our bones are soft and fragile, but mother’s milk and our daily diet and physical activity while growing up gradually strengthen our skeletal system. The highest bone density is reached at about age 28. After that, bone mass can be maintained relatively constant through middle age and in a healthy human being will only decline slightly in old age as his or her movement and metabolism lowers.
Today people observing the modern food pattern do not reach optimal levels of bone density in their late twenties. For the most part, they attain critical bone mass, the minimal level necessary to support their weight and function in daily life. But if they take improper food and are too sedentary, their bones start to lose minerals or decalcify. Osteoporosis, which affects up to 1 in 2 women over age 50 today, is showing up in younger women, as a recent British study found.
Swiss health officials say osteoporosis will cause one of the biggest social and financial disasters of the century. “By 2050 one Swiss person will have to push another in a wheelchair.” Worldwide, osteoporosis has reached epidemic proportions, increasing 300% in the last ten years. Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men will fracture their spine, wrist, or hip. The incidence of osteoporosis in women now exceeds that of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer together.
The main causes of this modern plague are consumption of meat, dairy, and other foods high in animal protein, and lack of fiber-rich vegetables, not low calcium intake, as most doctors would have us believe.
Countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis, including the United States, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, consume the most milk, butter, and cheese. China and Japan, where people consume 3 to 4 times less protein and milk products, have substantially lower rates of this disease. Osteoporosis is spreading with the modern diet. Today 1 in 4 broken hips occurs in Asia or Latin America and that will increase to 1 in 2 by mid century.
Common Sense About Calcium
How can we explain that the top ten countries with the highest intake of calcium (1500- 2000 mg/day), including the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Australia, have the highest rates of osteoporosis, while Asian countries like China and Japan that have the lowest intake (500-1000 mg/day) have the lowest rates of this crippling and often lethal bone disease?
The type of calcium consumed by both groups is different. The first group ingests calcium from animal and dairy sources that create an acid-forming environment in the body, while the second group takes calcium from green vegetables and other plant sources that produce an alkaline environment.
In the first group, dairy and meat together with sugar products and lack of movement or physical activity are the primary cause of osteoporosis. Animal protein increases the amount of acid in the blood. This in turn inhibits calcium absorption and weakens and thins the bones, creating greater risk of fracture.
It’s like you want to paint an old, dirty white plastered wall with new white chalky paint. If you add 100 cc of strong hydrochloric acid to 10 liters of paint and mix it well before you apply the paint to the wall, the paint will not stick. The old paint also will come off the wall. In a way, the same things happen when we eat calcium in an acid forming environment of animal protein. The calcium in the bones and teeth starts to be lost, leaving them soft and weakened, a process known as decalcification. Coffee, alcohol, and sugar also give a strong acid reaction.
Taking more dietary calcium to make up this loss, especially that from dairy food (also high in animal protein) only makes the situation worse. The extra dietary calcium cannot be absorbed, builds up in soft tissues, and hardens. This process is known as calcification. The build up of calcium deposits in the arteries, brain, and in and around other tissues and organs is a main cause of hardening of the arteries, Alzheimer’s disease, and other disorders associated with calcium deposits.
Whatever your age, sex, or energy level, an optimal balance of plant-quality protein, calcium, fiber, and other nutrients will ensure strong, healthy bones together with daily physical activities like walking, bicycling, yoga, martial arts, and sports.
Why Asian Women Have Hardly Any Osteoporosis
Middle aged women in Japan, China, and other Asian countries hardly ever developed osteoporosis, even though their calcium intake was 2 to 4 times less than Western women. The reason is that their source of calcium is vegetable quality.
They traditionally ate very little meat and other heavy animal food. They also consumed large amounts of green leafy, fiber-rich vegetables such as daikon greens, mustard leaves, Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli; beans and bean products like tofu and tempeh; sea vegetables such as nori and hiziki; sesame seeds and sesame oil, and other foods rich in phytoestrogens such as shoyu, miso, and green tea that stimulate mineral metabolism. Of all foods, sesame seeds and sesame oil are the highest in calcium. For the same reason, Asian women didn’t develop breast cancer until recently when cow’s milk became a fashion. In Asia today, milk and other dairy food consumption is rising rapidly, and soon China will become the largest producer.
Stimulating Bone Growth: Leek and Onion Root Condiment
This condiment is good for stimulating bone growth. Slice the long, tiny white roots of several leeks and onions. Sauté in a little sesame oil with a pinch of salt for 10 to 15 minutes on a low flame. Add a little barley miso diluted in cold water at the end of cooking and simmer for another several minutes.
Other special dishes that are good for the bones and to prevent osteoporosis
include nori condiment, shio kombu, and kinpira soup.
Adelbert Nelissen is the co-founder and co-director of the Kushi Institute of Europe. He has taught and counseled in over 60 countries during the last 25years. This article is adapted from material he prepared for Makropedia.com, the forthcoming new website on diet, health, and the environment, and the Ideal Food Pattern for Humanity. He initiated these projects and created the most comprehensive visual design based on macrobiotic guidelines originally developed by Michio Kushi and by the latest scientific and nutritional research.