Osteoporosis is a condition involving the thinning of bones (bone demineralisation), leaving them brittle and more susceptible to fracture. Ninety nice percent of calcium is stored in the bones, so sufficient calcium is important in order to maintain or reach peak bone mass (PBM).
In the UK, an estimated 3 million people are suffering from osteoporosis, with 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over 50 years old breaking a bone at least once, mainly due to poor bone health.
Who is most at risk of osteoporosis?
The older population are more at risk of osteoporosis because bones naturally become thinner as we get older. Post-menopausal women are particularly at risk of osteoporosis because of the decrease in the female hormone, oestrogen. Those with higher salt intakes are increasing the amount of bone demineralisation that takes place.
Studies have also demonstrated that there is a correlation between salt intake and calcium excretion in young and adolescent girls. It has been suggested that this may result in a reduced peak bone mass, which would increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Consuming a low salt diet during adolescent years may therefore be important, to reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
What causes osteoporosis?
A lack of dietary calcium can increase the risk of osteoporosis in men, women and children. Postmenopausal women are most at risk of osteoporosis due to the drop in oestrogen they experience, which normally protects bone density.
Salt is a major factor in controlling the amount of calcium in the urine and lost from the bones. Because calcium is important for bone strength, too much salt can lead to bone weakening and therefore osteoporosis. High blood pressure caused by a high salt diet can also increase the risk of osteoporosis by increasing the rate at which calcium is lost from the bones.
Current Salt Intake & Dietary Advice
Almost everyone in the UK (and the rest of the Western world) eats too much salt. The daily recommended amount in the UK is no more than 6 grams a day; the current average salt intake is 8g salt a day although many people are eating more than this.
People with or considered at risk of osteoporosis should ensure that they keep their salt intake below the recommended maximum of 6g. This can be achieved by simple changes, such as consuming less processed foods and checking product labels before purchase. Consuming low salt dairy products such as milk will also help maintain bone mass. Caffeine and fizzy drinks are thought to reduce bone mass, and therefore should be kept to a minimum. An increase in Vitamin D, Zinc and Copper may also be of help.