In the society in which we live, nutritional deficiencies and insufficiencies are the order of the day. An incorrect lifestyle, stress, and an unbalanced diet are now common factors for the vast majority of the population. The consequences, however, can be more severe than expected and arise with advancing age in the form of quite serious pathologies. Osteoporosis, for example, is a systemic disease that affects a large portion of the population.
To prevent it, in addition to practicing physical activity regularly and having a healthy lifestyle, nutrition is also essential. A deficiency of calcium and vitamin D, in fact, can be one of the factors that contribute to the onset of this pathology. When we talk about calcium, the first thing we think of is milk and its derivatives, but in reality, these are not the only sources of calcium. Those who suffer from lactose intolerance can rely on many other foods. So, let’s discover together the relationship between lactose intolerance, vitamin D, and osteoporosis.
In this article, in fact, you will find everything you need to know about osteoporosis, its manifestations, and the relationship between this pathology and a vitamin D deficiency. We will also discover what the benefits of milk are in a situation of severe vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D, how to take it daily, and what are the recommended doses, especially in the presence of pathologies such as osteoporosis? And what should you do if you are lactose intolerant? We will clarify this point, too, proposing some solutions.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a pathology that affects the skeletal system and is characterized by the reduction of bone mass with a consequent alteration of its structure, which leads it to become more fragile and, therefore, to be more exposed to the risk of spontaneous fractures or trauma, like falls and the like. The bones most susceptible to fractures in the presence of osteoporosis are the spine, hips, shoulders, and radius. Systemic disease is prevalent; in fact, it is estimated that it affects 5 million people, of whom the majority are post-menopausal women. Osteoporosis is divided into primary and secondary forms based on the factors that determine its appearance.
Primary osteoporosis is associated with the physiological deterioration of the bones due to aging, i.e., senile primary osteoporosis, or a lack of estrogen, hormones capable of counteracting the loss of bone mass. In this case, we speak of primary osteoporosis postmenopausal. Secondary osteoporosis, on the other hand, can be linked to other pathologies, such as endocrine diseases and neoplasms, or to the intake of particular drugs. In addition to these, other risk factors are family history, smoking, alcohol, a diet lacking in calcium, the mineral par excellence that forms the basis of bones, a sedentary lifestyle, and early menopause.
Very often, it is not easy to immediately diagnose this disease, as it is generally asymptomatic and only becomes evident after a fracture. However, to interpret it, two specific tests can be used that are able to analyze the patient’s bone density: MOC, computerized bone mineral ometry, and DXA, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Therefore, the role of prevention is essential, which is implemented by practicing constant physical exercise, having a healthy life with a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, abolition of smoking, and moderate alcohol consumption.
What Relationship Is There Between Vitamins And Osteoporosis
Vitamin D is essential for calcium metabolism and is necessary for the development and maintenance of a healthy skeleton. Therefore, it is also a vital element for the prevention and management of osteoporosis symptoms.
- vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is produced by the skin following exposure to sunlight and is present in some foods;
- vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is a slightly different molecule of plant origin.
Thanks to sun exposure, vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin from a substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol. There is no need to take it regularly, as self-produced vitamin D, in most cases, is able to cover the body’s needs and is accumulated in the liver and released when necessary in small doses.
Subsequently, vitamin D, which is produced in the skin or is taken in small quantities through food, will be transformed into the so-called active metabolites through enzymatic processes, first in the liver and then in the kidneys, where it will become an actual hormone calcitriol. The functions of vitamin D are multiple; here are the main ones:
- contributes to the intestinal absorption of calcium;
- regulates the levels of the PTH hormone, which is able to stimulate the release of calcium from the bones;
- guarantees a good level of bone mineralization.
A standard, optimal level of vitamin D for skeletal health is achieved at or above 75 nmol/L. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to consequences for bone health, even serious ones, such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, which manifest themselves with an insufficient internal mineral content of the bones despite having an intact external bone structure. The subjects most exposed to vitamin D deficiency are generally older people since the production of vitamin D decreases with advancing age. Furthermore, older people tend to go out less, and therefore, their skin is exposed to the sun.
Also affected by this condition are people who live in high latitudes, where exposure to the sun is minimal; obese subjects; and people suffering from pathologies that prevent the correct absorption of vitamin D by the intestine. We must also take into consideration the fact that today, children spend less time outdoors, and most adults work in closed environments, such as offices or industries. However, vitamin D can also be obtained through some foods. Significant sources include fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, eggs, and dairy products. Shiitake mushrooms also have good doses of vitamin D, especially if dried.
What Are The Benefits Of Milk?
In the list of foods rich in vitamin D, we also mentioned dairy products. Milk is, in fact, one of the foods richest in nutrients: it contains proteins, fat sugars, mineral salts, and vitamins. It is essential for its calcium content and also contains phosphorus, another vital mineral for the construction and maintenance of bones that contributes to the absorption of calcium by the body, as well as magnesium and potassium.
The vitamins present in it are B12, B2, A, and a modest quantity of vitamin D, which varies according to the type of milk and is also contained in its derivatives. 100 g of whole milk contains 51 IU of vitamin D, and 100 g of butter contains 60. The substances present in milk also play an essential role in the transport and absorption of vitamin D along the gastrointestinal tract.
Finally, milk is a food with a low energy density but a high nutritional level, and the lactose it contains provides energy that can be consumed immediately as well as being necessary for the nervous system as it is part of the structure of myelin, the protective sheath of nerve fibers. The intake of milk in the right quantities is also able to prevent an increase in blood pressure thanks to the potassium, calcium, and other active substances present in it.
Recommended Daily Doses Of Calcium
As we have said, calcium is essential for bone health and must be integrated with a healthy and balanced diet. Depending on gender and age, the daily requirement for calcium changes significantly. Newborn children need 600 mg of calcium per day, and their condition increases considerably with age: aches 1200 mg per year, day from 11 to 17 years.
From 18 to 29 years, there is a decline, with the need for 1000 mg per day increasing to 800 mg per day from 30 to 49 years. Over the age of 60, women will need 1200–1500 mg per day, given the condition of menopause, while 1000 mg will be sufficient for men. Furthermore, during pregnancy, women should have a calcium intake of 1200 mg per day, as the baby will need calcium to develop and thrive.
How To Take Calcium If You Are Lactose Intolerant
We have analyzed the importance of milk in a diet that pays particular attention to avoiding the risk of vitamin D deficiency. However, there are specific cases in which drinking milk is not the best choice to prevent this risk, lactose intolerance cium; there are, in fact, other foods that contain a good percentage of it:
- herbs ;
- dried fruit, especially almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts;
- fresh fruit, such as figs and oranges;
- vegetables, especially green leafy ones, such as rocket and spinach;
- legumes, especially chickpeas, and beans;
- fish, such as sardines and salmon.
Remember to drink at least 2 liters of water a day, which is calorie-free and rich in mineral salts. It is good to remember that milk and other lactose-free products, which can be consumed with peace of mind in cases of lactose intolerance, maintain the same quantity of calcium and other properties of this food. In fact, the latter is added with the lactase enzyme, which splits lactose into glucose and galactose and, therefore, allows its correct digestion.
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