In this interview we talk to Rivkah Maya, one of our resident nutritional therapists about nutrition’s role in the prevention of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis.
What are Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis?
Osteoporosis literally means spongy (porous) bone. As a living tissue, bone continually renews itself, breaking down old tissue and replacing it with new bone material. When we get older, the rate of this renewal changes with old bone being broken down more quickly than it is replaced, leading to a loss of density. This can lead to bones growing more fragile and the risk of fractures and breaks increasing.
According to statistics cited by the International Osteoporosis Foundation, one in three women and one in five men are at risk of osteoporotic fracture during their lifetimes.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease globally and impacts at least 8 million people in the UK alone (Source: Arthritis Research UK).
When a joint develops osteoarthritis, protective cartilage covering the ends of the bones deteriorates. This causes pain, swelling and difficulty moving the joint. If Osteoarthritis worsens over time, bones can also begin to break down due to the lack of protective cushion provided by healthy cartilage and develop growths called spurs. Chips of bone or cartilage can end up floating around in the joint.
Rivkah, what role does nutrition play in the fight against osteoporosis?
“The prevalence of Osteoporosis varies between cultures and societies suggesting it might be preventable and that diet may have a big part to play in that.
“With Osteoporosis we are dealing with the structure of bone itself which is very rich in minerals, so a nutrient and mineral dense diet may help in the fight against the disease.
“Bone itself is pretty amazing as it regenerates and remodels itself throughout our whole life. This means two things: If you have Osteoporosis you can use diet to slow down bone loss and you can also do a lot earlier in life to ensure you have peak bone mass before this starts to decline around the age of 30.”
How about Osteoarthritis?
“Osteoarthritis is considered a natural part of ageing or ‘general wear and tear’ but research shows we are not all destined to get it so, once again, nutrition must play a part.
“It is an inflammatory condition and diet can either trigger inflammation or be anti-inflammatory, suggesting nutrition can be a pretty powerful way of reducing symptoms. There is a lot you can do nutritionally speaking to slow Osteoarthritis down or prevent its development, but if you have it already you can use diet to reduce inflammation and manage the symptoms.”
Are there any nutrients/food types that are particularly effective in the fight against Oseotoporosis and Osteoarthritis?
“With Osteoporosis your diet needs to be as nutrient and mineral rich as possible to build up your bone structure.
“Calcium is vital but you want to get this from diet rather than supplements. Good sources of Calcium are green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and bony fish like anchovies and tinned sardines as their bones are rich in calcium.
“Vitamin D and Magnesium are also really important. Without Vitamin D the body can’t absorb calcium and low levels of magnesium usually mean you will have lower levels of calcium and vitamin D.
The sun is the biggest source of vitamin D and sadly we don’t always get as much as we need, so most people will need supplementation but it is very important to get your levels checked first. Sources of magnesium are dark green leafy veg, nuts, seeds and wholegrains
“Vitamin K also supports bone health but to be able to convert it you need good gut bacteria. Sources of Vitamin K are green leafy veg, broccoli and green tea.
“For Osteoarthritis, the key is an anti-inflammatory diet and ensuring your diet includes nutrients that support cartilage health. A diet high in vegetables and healthy fats like Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory. Good sources of healthy fats are all the oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel), avocado, nuts and seeds.
“Once again, vitamin D is really important for bone health but also helps to regulate and support the immune system. This in turn is responsible for managing inflammation.
“Vitamin C is also vital for the production of collagen, a key part of cartilage structure. Good sources of this are green veg, bell peppers and kiwi fruit. Fresh or dried Turmeric is also anti-inflammatory and can be added to soups and stews, as is Ginger. Fresh Ginger is best for cooking or making a tea though. Pineapple is also a good anti-inflammatory food as it contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called Bromelain.”
“Bone broth is really good for both conditions. It is great for supporting the gut, which regulates the immune system and therefore inflammation. It is also super rich in minerals and nutrients needed to maintain optimum bone and cartilage health, such as hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate and gelatin.”
Are there any that ought to be avoided for either condition?
“The things that reduce bone density are excess protein, excessive alcohol and caffeine, smoking, taking anti-acids and aluminium – so wrapping or cooking foods in foil. This can displace calcium within the body so that it can’t actually use it.
“To combat inflammation, foods you need to reduce are processed foods, sugar, trans fats (this includes cooking food in veg oils at high temperatures as their structure changes), dairy, gluten and too much red meat.”
Do you have a short recipe that would be a good introduction to daily diets aimed at improving natural defences against either osteoporosis and/or osteoarthritis?
Nonna Erminia, the grandmother of Francesca Minischetti, one of the Clinic’s Directors and Chiropractors, has a great recipe for bone broth which is as follows:
Nonna Erminia’s tasty bone broth!
- 1-2 organic chicken carcasses and any left over bones (freeze any bones from previous meals, pork or beef or ossobuco and add them to the chicken if you have them but just chicken is fine too.) – you probably want around 500g worth of bones in total
- 2 onions
- 2 celery sticks
- 2 carrots (and any old left over vegetables in the fridge)
- 4 garlic cloves
- Tablespoon of peppercorns
- Handful of parsley
- A few pinches of salt
- 2 litres of water.
Put all ingredients into a pot and boil for as long as you can but at least four hours. If you have a slow cooker, cook everything for about 24-36 hours, so the bones start to get brittle.
You will then need a sieve, so that you can separate the broth from the bones. Discard the bones and vegetables, keeping only the broth. Then skim some of the fat off the top (not all as the fat helps to keep the broth fresh and has lots of nutrients in it) and stand the broth until cooled. It is then ready to use or freeze. The fat skimmed off can be used for roasting or frying.
The broth tastes great with cappelleti (small tortellini) added or alternatively it can be used as the base ingredient for soups, stews, curries or risottos.