Osteoporosis is one of the most neglected diseases in the Middle East. While lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease gain headline attention, awareness about osteoporosis and its prevention is often ignored. Lack of awareness and poor nutrition coupled with growing demographic and socioeconomic changes, mean that the number of osteoporosis cases and bones fractures is rapidly rising. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have the highest rates of hip fractures in the world, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF).
World Osteoporosis Day on October 20th is designed to raise awareness about the disease. Globally, Nestlé partnered with the International Osteoporosis Foundation to spread awareness on the importance of good nutrition and physical activity in maintaining strong and healthy bones. One of the most vital and irreversible periods in a child’s development is around the age of 6. Children normally grow 6cm in height at this stage.
Therefore, they need to make the right food choices to build healthy and strong bones to protect them from osteoporosis in the future. Taking care of a child's nutrition by providing them with the appropriate food choices for this stage of their life is critical. The most important vitamins and minerals for building strong bones are calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D. Calcium, a major component of bones, combines with phosphorous to form the collagen that holds the bones together and increases their thickness.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), children between the age of 4 and 8 need around 1000mg of calcium every day – they can get these by eating dairy products such as yoghurt, labneh and cheese and drinking milk such as Nestlé NIDO® FORTIFIED with FORTIGROW® which includes High Quality Protein to aid muscle growth, Calcium and Vitamin D to maintain normal bones and teeth, and Iron and Vitamin C to support their cognitive development and immunity. Other essential foods include meat, chicken, fish, eggs and legumes to boost their levels of phosphorous.
“Children between the ages of six and nine are in a critical period of development, particularly when it comes to their bones. The nutrients their bodies absorb during these three years determine the health of bones for the rest of their lives so it is important to ensure that they are getting the right intake of calcium and phosphorous, and encouraged to take up regular exercise through play,” said Sarah Kanaan, Market Nutritionist at Nestlé Middle East.
While levels of calcium and phosphorous can be boosted through food and drink, the best source of vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight and vitamin D-fortified milk. Exercise is also a critical element to maintain healthy bones. Encouraging children to take part in weight bearing exercises such as walking, running, dancing and playing sports is one of the best ways to build strong bones.
Quick tips by Sarah Kanaan, Market Nutritionist at Nestlé ME to boost children’s calcium intake:
- Ensure that they have a varied and balanced diet rich in calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D.
- Bones & muscles get stronger when they are used so encourage them to get moving! What kind of exercise is good for your children’s muscles and bones? Is running around the house enough?
- Weight bearing exercise is one of the best kinds of physical activity that keeps your children active and on their feet so that their legs carry their body weight and ultimately helps them reach their peak bone mass.
- Examples of weight bearing exercise are: walking, stair climbing, tennis, volleyball, skiing, gymnastics, soccer, basketball, rope jumping and dancing.
- Children should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on preferably all days of the week.
- Add yogurt to meals or make dishes with milk to enhance their calcium intake.
- Include low fat protein sources such as meat, chicken, fish, milk or milk products, and beans in their regular diet.
- Include whole grain or complex carbohydrates such as potato, rice, whole grain pasta and a good variety of vegetables in their diet.