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Mixed messages could increase risk of osteoporosis

22 June 2011 - 1:56pm

MPs called this week for clearer government advice on sun exposure and nutrition, as part of an action plan to combat osteoporosis.

The All-Party Parliamentary Osteoporosis Group (APPOG) launched the report of its inquiry into the role of nutrition in preventing the brittle-bone condition on 21 June.

Safe sun exposure

The report also calls for a clearer official position to be taken on safe exposure to sunlight, a main source of bone-protecting vitamin D.

It recommends 10 minutes of sun exposure to the face and arms without sunscreen once or twice a day, every day, between May and September, taking care not to burn.

Obesity is not the only concern

And it urges the government not to focus solely on obesity in messages about healthy eating. To build healthy bones, it also recommends a balanced calcium-rich diet, weight-bearing exercise for at least 20 minutes three times a week, moderate alcohol intake and no smoking.

Public concern about skin cancer and obesity could increase the risk of osteoporosis, the group notes, if people avoid the sun and cut down on foods such as milk, eggs and oily fish.

‘If individuals can get all the calcium that they need from their diet, and adequate vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, then a supplement will not be necessary,’ says the report, noting the risks of excessive calcium and vitamin D supplementation.

Nutritional needs in hospital

But it calls for existing policy on supplementation for vulnerable groups to be more consistently implemented – especially among malnourished older people in hospital.

The report quotes statistics from the NHS Information Centre showing that the number of men treated for hip fracture in English hospitals increased by 77 per cent during the decade to 2009. And 30 per cent of hip-fracture patients die within a year.

Message for physios

‘In addition to highlighting the need for government to provide clearer advice on the prevention of osteoporosis, this report also serves as a reminder of the need for physiotherapists and other health professionals to educate their clients about healthy lifestyle choices and the benefits of weight-bearing and resistance exercises,’ said CSP professional adviser Clare Claridge.

Janet Thomas of AGILE, the CSP’s professional network for physios working with older people, said: ‘AGILE welcomes any initiative designed to clarify the recommendations for nutrition and bone health. We recognise that adequate nutrition is key if other interventions, such as exercise for bone health, are to be effective.’



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