Brittle bones for Canada's aging junk-food generation
Cy Frank, Winnipeg Free Press
If you think junk food goes directly onto your hips, you're right. But it gets worse. It gets into your hips, and into other bones in the body, too.
Food that is high in fat and sugar robs the skeleton of the building blocks it needs to grow and remain strong to ward off degenerative conditions like osteoporosis.
There are two mechanisms for this bone robbery.
First, a diet high in saturated fats and sugar blocks ingested calcium from being absorbed, so it excretes in the urine. Thus, the calcium needed for healthy bones washes through the body and is lost.
Second, saturated fats tend to form insoluble 'soaps,' which coat the intestines. This coating becomes a barrier to the calcium bones need. Thus, the calcium from the cheese on a burger will pass through the intestines mainly unused.
The picture is not pretty. Junk food layers fat onto a skeleton that it weakens of the ability to support the extra weight.
Approximately two million Canadians suffer from osteoporosis, a disease known as the 'silent thief' because, with no symptoms, it robs the bone of tissue leaving it with thousands of tiny pores. Porous bones can break with little stress.
Women are particularly at risk, with a rate of osteoporosis twice that of men. One in four women in Canada over 50 has osteoporosis. One in three women over 65 will suffer a hip fracture. About 20 per cent of hip fractures related to osteoporosis will result in death.
Treating osteoporosis and related fractures costs Canada's public health system an estimated $1.9 billion per year.
Your diet can be an enemy or an ally in your battle against osteoporosis.
A growing child, near puberty and rapidly laying down new bone, could optimize his or her bone growth and accumulation by eating healthy foods and being physically active. The more bone developed, the lower the chance of fractures from osteoporosis later in life. Parents and grandparents, however, are past the stage of building bone. By following a healthy diet, being physically active and, if necessary, taking medication to slow bone loss, they can reduce their likelihood of fractures from osteoporosis.