One in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. Hip fractures are of particular concern, and every year almost 3,700 New Zealanders suffer from a broken hip. 50% of them will never return to full mobility again. 25% of them will die.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by weakened bones, making them fragile and more prone to fractures. Several factors contribute to its development:

Age: Osteoporosis is more common in older adults as bones become less dense and weaker with age.
Gender: Women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, especially after menopause due to a decrease in estrogen levels, which accelerates bone loss.
Hormonal changes: Besides menopause, hormonal imbalances in both men and women, such as thyroid problems or low testosterone levels, can lead to bone loss.
Dietary factors: A diet low in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D can contribute to the development of osteoporosis. Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are crucial for maintaining bone health.
Lifestyle choices: Lack of physical activity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and prolonged use of certain medications (such as corticosteroids) can weaken bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and hormonal disorders, can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients essential for bone health.
Low body weight: Being underweight or having a small body frame can increase the risk of osteoporosis as there is less bone mass to draw from as you age.
Long-term bed rest or immobility: Lack of weight-bearing exercise and prolonged periods of immobility can lead to bone loss and increase the risk of osteoporosis.


The best protection against osteoporosis is a combination of regular exercise and excellent nutrition.

A plant-based diet offers several benefits for osteoporosis management over an omnivore diet:

  1. Nutrient Density: Plant-based diets are rich in nutrients essential for bone health, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D and vitamin K2. These nutrients contribute to bone density and strength. It’s a common misconception that calcium is only obtained from dairy products. Green vegetables like kale, broccoli, and bok choy, along with other plant-based sources like sesame seeds and chickpeas, are indeed rich in calcium. Including these foods in your diet not only provides the necessary calcium for bone health but also offers a variety of other nutrients and benefits that contribute to overall well-being.  Magnesium is also crucial for bone health. It’s involved in various processes related to bone formation, including the activation of vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption in the intestines. Magnesium also plays a role in regulating parathyroid hormone, which helps maintain calcium levels in the blood and supports bone remodeling. Deficiency in magnesium can indeed lead to decreased bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Ensuring an adequate intake of magnesium through a balanced diet that includes magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables is essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones.  Vitamin K2 is less common in plant foods but can be found in fermented foods like sauerkraut and natto, as well as in animal products. Vitamin K2 is important for activating proteins that help bind calcium to the bone matrix, contributing to bone strength and reducing the risk of fractures.  For individuals who may not get enough vitamin D and vitamin K2 through diet or sun exposure, supplements can be useful, especially in consultation with a healthcare provider to ensure appropriate dosages. It’s important to maintain adequate levels of these vitamins to support bone health and overall well-being. While calcium is essential for bone health, high-dose calcium supplementation, especially in the form of calcium carbonate, has been associated with potential risks, including an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.
  2. Alkalizing Effect: Plant-based diets tend to have an alkalizing effect on the body, which may help counteract the acidic load that can leach calcium from bones.
  3. Reduced Inflammation: Plant-based diets are typically high in anti-inflammatory compounds, which may help reduce inflammation associated with bone loss and osteoporosis.
  4. Favorable Protein Quality: While animal proteins can increase calcium excretion from bones, plant-based proteins have a more favorable effect on bone health.
  5. Lower Sodium Content: Plant-based diets are naturally lower in sodium compared to diets rich in processed foods and animal products. High sodium intake can increase calcium excretion in the urine, potentially weakening bones.
  6. Weight Management: Plant-based diets are often lower in calories and saturated fats, which can help maintain a healthy weight.
  7. Phytochemicals and Antioxidants: Plant-based diets are abundant in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which may protect bone health by reducing oxidative stress and promoting bone formation.
  8. Improved Gut Health: A diverse plant-based diet can support a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a role in nutrient absorption and overall health, including bone health.
  9. Avoid foods that cause calcium to be removed from the bone and lost in urine. The three worst foods are excess sodium, caffeine and soda, including diet and decaffeinated soda. Soda consumption increases parathyroid hormone (PTH) in the blood, which increases blood calcium concentrations by stimulating bone breakdown. This increased blood calcium is then excreted in the urine.

Preventing Osteoporosis
Dr Joel Fuhrman

Calcium and Strong Bones
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Know your Bones
Bone Health New Zealand

Research papers

Research papers
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