A recent survey has found that 70% of 18 – 35 year olds are currently, or have previously been, dieting. So what’s new there you say?
But it is affecting their bones, and in particular the 20% who had cut or significantly reduced dairy in their diet. Dairy is an important source of calcium, vital in building bone strength when you are young.
Why a balanced diet is essential at every age for bone health
You may have read about ‘clean eating’, which can involve cutting out whole food groups from the diet, and is very popular both in the media and with the under 25 year olds who are much more likely than any other age group to be following health, diet or nutrition bloggers on social media.
The foundations of good bone health are built in early adulthood, usually before the age of 25 so diet is crucial in protecting the future health of our bones.
Cutting out food groups during this stage of bone development could put future bone health at significant risk, and specifically increase the risk of developing osteopenia which leads to osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become fragile and break easily.
It is hard when young to ‘think ahead’ as you don’t believe health issues will affect you, but diet in early adulthood is so important because by the time we get into our late twenties it is too late to reverse the damage caused by poor diet and nutrient deficiencies and the opportunity to build strong bones has passed.
Half of all women and 1 in 5 men develop osteoporosis after 50.
Broken bones, also known as fractures, caused by osteoporosis can be very painful and slow to recover from and along with a poor diet there is another factor particular to young women.
Anovulatory periods, where there is menstruation but no ovulation, means no progesterone is being produced. That is the essential hormone for bone building, and irregular, skipped periods are a factor in conditions such as PCOS which can have other consequences for young women such as fertility.
The selfie sharing generation posts pictures of food and diets all the time and the pressure on young women to look good is enormous. It is vitally important to encourage teenagers and young women to eat healthily to build their bones and their future good health.
What can you do to help?
Bone health requires balanced hormone levels of both progesterone and oestrogen and regular, good intakes of calcium and vitamin D .
A healthy balanced diet, including all food groups, is essential for good bone health. Good foods that provide these are most dairy products, green leafy vegetables, salmon, sardines, broccoli and baked beans.