Can drinking milk prevent osteoporosis?

Originally Published: November 17, 2000 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 27, 2012
Share this
Dear Alice,

Does drinking milk prevent osteoporosis? Then what are the best ways to prevent osteoporosis?

Concerned

Dear Concerned,

Osteoporosis doesn't happen overnight. Many interrelated factors cause this serious loss of bone mass. It begins with osteopenia, a demineralization of bone, and progressively gets worse. But prevention is possible, with proper care. Diet and other health practices influence a person's lifetime bone strength. Getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and weight-bearing exercise are major parts of the prevention picture. According to the new DRI (Daily Reference Intake), people need:

Calcium:
  • 9 - 18 years: 1300 mg/day
  • 19 - 50 years: 1000 mg/day (same guidelines apply for women who are pregnant or lactating)
  • 50 years and older: 1200 mg/day
Vitamin D:
  • 9 - 50 years: 5 micrograms [200 International Units (I.U.)]
  • 50 years and older: 10 micrograms (400 I.U.)
Weight Bearing Exercise: The National Osteoporosis Foundation defines it as "exercise in which bones and muscles work against gravity as the feet and legs bear the body's weight." Examples include walking, jogging, stairclimbing, dancing, and racquet sports, along with weight training. Overexercising, however, can actually decrease bone density. For women, loss of menses may be a signal of too much physical activity.

Other nutrients involved in building strong bones include:

Nutrient
Role(s)
Good Sources
Vitamin C
a vital nutrient in forming collagen, which helps support minerals in the bone structure and plays a crucial role in holding bones together most fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits, papaya, bell peppers, cantaloupe, strawberries, and broccoli.
Vitamin K
activates a protein needed to keep bones strong leafy green vegetables are the best source
Potassium
may help retain calcium in bone tissue fruits and vegetables, including potatoes, spinach, bananas, orange juice, and various legumes
Magnesium
needed for bone formation green vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, nuts, and legumes.

Now that you've boned up on osteoporosis, you can see that eating a well-rounded diet is really the best defense. Although calcium from dairy is in the forefront, many nutrients play supporting roles. In addition, regular but not excessive exercise, along with other healthy lifestyle choices, can help you build strong, long-lasting bones.

Alice