Definition of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a decrease in bone density. The bones become more fragile and are more prone to fractures. Bones are living tissue. They are constantly formed and reabsorbed. This is called remodeling. Bone formation is more important than bone resorption until about the age of 30, when peak bone mass is reached. After this age, the resorption becomes more important and the bone density gradually decreases. This decrease becomes more pronounced after the age of 50, especially among women. If bone formation becomes insufficient, bone density continues to decline and the bones become increasingly brittle, which leads to osteoporosis.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

People with certain characteristics are more likely to have osteoporosis. These characteristics are called risk factors. For osteoporosis these factors are:

  • Be 65 years of age and over
  • Be of Caucasian or Asian origin
  • Have a sedentary lifestyle
  • Have a low weight
  • Have a family history of osteoporosis
  • Have had early menopause
  • Have insufficient intake of calcium andvitamin D
  • Be a smoker
  • Have excessive consumption of caffeine and / or alcohol
  • Have certain illnesses (e.g .:celiac disease)
  • Take certain medications (e.g. cortisone)

Symptoms of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is usually asymptomatic because the decrease in bone density is very gradual. Symptoms can develop when a fracture occurs. However, some people may never develop symptoms.

Diagnosis of osteoporosis

Diagnosis is usually made by two-photon x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), a test that measures bone density.

Prevention and treatment of osteoporosis

In general, preventing osteoporosis is more effective than treating it. This is because it is more difficult to restore bone density than to prevent it from decreasing. Prevention and treatment of osteoporosis are similar. They generally include the management of modifiable risk factors (e.g. tobacco, alcohol, caffeine), physical activity, sufficient consumption of calcium andvitamin D and sometimes taking certain medications. Their main goals are to preserve bone mass and prevent fractures.

Physical activity vs osteoporosis

Physical activity and exercise help increase bone density. Activities that involve supporting your own weight, such as running, walking or dancing, put pressure on the bones and stimulate the deposition of calcium in the bones. Resistance exercises that involve the use of weights or dumbbells also help build strong bones. Finally, physical activity also helps build, strengthen and maintain good muscle mass, which improves strength and balance and helps reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

Medicines for osteoporosis

Certain medications may be prescribed to slow the loss of bone mass or to decrease pain.

Nutritional approach for osteoporosis

Diet plays an important role in maintaining good bone health. Here are some helpful recommendations that can help prevent or treat osteoporosis:

  • Consume a variety of foods rich incalcium daily. Calcium is involved in bone building, and consuming enough calcium helps maintain bone mass. Calcium from food sources is preferred. If the diet does not meet the calcium requirements, a healthcare practitioner can determine if supplementation is appropriate.
  • Consume enoughvitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body to use and absorb calcium well. Food sources of vitamin D are few in number and although exposure to the sun allows the body to synthesize it during the summer, taking a supplement is recommended if the diet does not meet the needs. . A healthcare professional can determine if a supplement is necessary and the appropriate dose.
  • Limit your sodium intake. Sodium can reduce bone density by helping to eliminate calcium in the urine. Processed products are the main source of sodium in the diet. It is therefore wise to limit their consumption to maintain good bone health.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine and calcium don't mix. Indeed, excessive consumption of caffeine, more than 400 mg per day (about 2 to 3 cups of coffee), increases the loss of calcium in the urine. Sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, certain carbonated and energy drinks, cocoa and chocolate.
  • Limit alcohol intake and avoid or quit smoking. Like caffeine, alcohol and tobacco can also reduce bone density.

Daily Calcium Requirements for Adults


Age group

Recommended amount (mg)

Adults aged 19 to 50s


51 70-year-old mens


51 70 year-old womens


Adults over 70



Daily Vitamin D Requirements for Adults


Age group

Recommended amount (IU *)

Adults aged 19 to 70s


Adults over 70


* International units

Some dietary sources of calcium

To meet your calcium needs, be sure to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods every day. Some good dietary sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy products with or without lactose (e.g. milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir, etc.)
  • Fortified vegetable drinks (eg: soy, almond, rice drinks, etc.)
  • Tofu prepared with calcium sulfate
  • White beans
  • Canned salmon and sardines, eaten with their bones
  • The almonds
  • Theedamame
  • Some leafy green vegetables like kale and bok choy

Some Food Sources of Vitamin D

Few foods contain vitamin D. The best food sources of this vitamin are:

  • Dairy products with or without lactose, enriched (e.g. milk, certain yogurts, etc.)
  • Fortified vegetable drinks (eg: soy, rice, oat drinks, etc.)
  • Oily fish such as salmon and sardines
  • Egg yolks


Article written by:

Marie-Noël Marsan, Nutritionist


Maladies digestives

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