Aging baby boomers are headed for osteoporosis and broken bones. They’re the generation that grew up on junk food, which not only causes obesity but also weakens the bones. And it’s all about the calcium, which doesn’t get absorbed properly when fats and sugar are involved.

It starts with a growing child – if he eats junk, bones won’t develop properly. If he eats healthy foods and gets plenty of exercises, his bones will become strong, which will last much longer in life. So poor nutrition doesn’t just cause diabetes and cardiovascular problems, it leads to poor joint and bone health too.

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 percent 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.

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