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How to feed your bones

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When you think about bone nutrition, you probably think of calcium first. And rightly so: A solid body of research suggests that you should meet your daily calcium needs (1,000-1,200 milligrams) for optimal bone health. The promising news is that a host of other nutrients are emerging as potential nutrients for optimal bone health, too.

Magnesium. Fifty percent to 60 percent of magnesium in the body is located in the bone, so it makes sense that magnesium influences bone formation. Recent research suggests that magnesium deficiency could be a risk factor for osteoporosis. A 2014 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that lower magnesium intake is associated with lower bone-mineral density, while a 2010 issue of Biological Trace Element Research found that magnesium supplementation at 90 percent of the RDA suppressed bone loss in postmenopausal women. The National Institutes of Health concurs that diets that provide the recommended amount of magnesium can enhance bone health, but cautions that further research is needed to fully understand the role it plays. Found in almonds, spinach, black beans, edamame, peanut butter, avocado, whole-wheat bread, kidney beans.

Vitamin C. Recent animal studies show promising findings. Researchers from Mt. Sinai Hospital School of Medicine reported that vitamin C had a positive effect on preventing bone loss in mice, which could translate to humans. Found in oranges, strawberries, red or green sweet bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, mango.

Vitamin B12. A 2013 review in The Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found an association between low B12 levels and low bone density. Similarly, Turkish researchers found a significant association between B12 levels, bone density, and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Found in clams, salmon, haddock, canned tuna, fortified breakfast cereals, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs.

Other Nutrients. Vitamin D plays an essential role in calcium absorption; insufficient levels can lead to rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. A 2012 meta-analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine found that supplementation of at least 800 International Units of vitamin D reduced the risk of hip and nonvertebral fractures. A 2014 review in the Journal of Nutrition and Gerontology and Geriatrics confirmed a link between vitamin K intake and reduced risk of fractures.

Vitamin D found in cod-liver oil, Sockeye salmon, fortified milk, swordfish, canned tuna, fortified orange juice, eggs. Vitamin K found in collard greens, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green-leaf lettuce, kale, Swiss chard.

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