Dietary Guidelines for Osteoporosis

You May Be Surprised to Learn that this is Not a Calcium Deficiency Disease

by John R. Lee, M.D. and Virginia Hopkins

Now that scientists know the process of preventing
osteoporosis begins early in life,
hearing about sugary drinks fortified with calcium for teenagers, antacids with
calcium, and calcium supplements. Osteoporosis is not a calcium deficiency
disease, it is a disease of excessive calcium loss. In other words, you can
take all the calcium supplements you want, but if your diet and lifestyle
choices are unhealthy, or you're taking prescription drugs that cause you to
lose calcium, you will still lose more calcium from your bones than you can
take in through diet.

In fact, getting adequate calcium is only a small part of
the prevention picture. Please pass up the sugary drinks and antacids. The
damage that refined sugar will do to a growing teenage body or even an adult
body far outweighs any benefit that might come from a little calcium
supplementation. There is even some evidence that sugar depletes calcium, so
the added calcium in these drinks may only be balancing out the damage done by
the sugar. The same goes for antacids containing calcium. Since antacids tend
to cause you to lose calcium, the added calcium may only offset that

Having pointed out that osteoporosis is not a calcium
deficiency disease, I want to assure you that getting adequate calcium
is an important factor in preventing osteoporosis. Some good food
sources of calcium are snow peas, broccoli, leafy green vegetables such as
spinach, kale, beet and turnip greens; almonds, figs, beans, nonfat milk,
yogurt and cottage cheese. I don't want you to depend on milk to get your
calcium. This is because milk has a poor calcium to magnesium ratio. Your body
needs a certain amount of magnesium in order to get the calcium into your bones
— without magnesium, calcium can't build strong bones.

In fact, magnesium deficiency may be more common in women
with osteoporosis than calcium deficiency. Although many fruits and vegetables
have some magnesium in them, especially good sources of magnesium are whole
grains, wheat bran, leafy green vegetables, nuts (almonds are a very rich
source of magnesium and calcium), beans, bananas and apricots.

Trace minerals are also important in helping your body
absorb calcium. Eating plenty of green leafy vegetables gives you calcium along
with these helpful trace minerals. Boron and manganese are especially
important. Foods that contain boron include apples, legumes, almonds, pears and
green, leafy vegetables. Foods that include manganese include ginger, buckwheat
and oats.

The organic matter in our bones consists mainly of collagen,
the “glue” that holds together skin, ligaments, tendons and bones. Zinc,
copper, beta carotene and vitamin C are all important to the formation and
maintenance of collagen in the body.

A Calcium/Magnesium Supplement is Good Health

Everyone should have at least 600 mg of easy-to-absorb
calcium daily. Although you can easily get that much with a healthy diet,
taking a calcium/magnesium supplement is an excellent form of health insurance.
In fact, calcium supplements can help slow bone loss in some women. To be
incorporated into bone, calcium requires the help of enzymes, which require
magnesium and vitamin B6 to work properly. We tend to be more deficient in
magnesium and B6 than we do in calcium.

All calcium supplements are not the same. The best absorbed
form is called calcium citrate. Avoid the oyster shell calcium, as it can be
contaminated with heavy metals. If you're female and over the age of 12, you
should be taking 300 mg of calcium, combined with 200 mg of magnesium every
day. If you can find a formula that also includes vitamin B6, so much the
better. Menopausal women can take 600 mg of calcium daily with 400 mg of

Sunshine is the Best Medicine

Vitamin D is another important ingredient in the recipe for
strong bones because it stimulates the absorption of calcium. A deficiency of
vitamin D can cause calcium loss. The best way to get vitamin D is from direct
sunlight on the skin. Sunlight stimulates a chain of events in the skin leading
to the production of vitamin D in the liver and kidneys. (This is why liver and
kidney disease can produce a vitamin D deficiency.) Going outside for just a
few minutes a day can give us all the vitamin D we need, and yet many people
don't even do that. They go from their home, to their car, to their office, and
back home, without spending more than a few seconds outdoors. Many elderly
people are unable to get outside without assistance, but this should be a
priority for their caretakers.

Stomach Acid

As we age, we tend to produce less stomach acid. To be
absorbed, calcium, requires vitamin D and stomach acid. For this reason,
it's important to avoid antacids and the H2 blockers such as Tagamet and
Zantac, which block or suppress the secretion of stomach acid. Contrary to what
the makers of heartburn and indigestion remedies would have you believe, the
last thing in the world most people need is less stomach acid. Heartburn
and indigestion are caused by poor eating habits and a lack of stomach
acid. Ulcers are caused by a bacteria, not by too much stomach acid. A simple
way to improve your calcium absorption may be to take a betaine hydrochloride
supplement just before or with meals, to increase your stomach acid. You can
find betaine hydrochloride at your health food store.

The Collagen Vitamins and Minerals

Collagen is the tissue that makes up your bone. To build
collagen you need vitamin A (or beta carotene), zinc and vitamin C. Vitamin C
is especially important, as it is the primary ingredient in the collagen
matrix. I recommend you take 1,000 mg daily of vitamin C, in an esterfied form
to prevent stomach problems.


  1. Reduce or eliminate soda pop and other carbonated

  2. Keep meat consumption to a reasonable level (no more
    than once a day).

  3. Eat plenty of fresh, green vegetables and whole

  4. Eat foods high in flavonoids, which help stabilize
    collagen structures, such as blueberries, raspberries and hawthorne


  1. Calcium citrate, 600 mg daily with meals

  2. Magnesium (citrate, glycinate, oxide or malate),
    600-900 mg daily with meals

  3. Folic acid, 200 mcg daily

  4. Vitamin C, 1,000 mg twice daily

  5. Vitamin B6, 50-100 mg daily between meals

  6. Zinc, 15 mg daily with meals

  7. Beta carotene, 15,000 iu daily

  8. Trace Minerals, including 1-3 mg of boron and

For a more detailed osteoporosis program, please read the
chapter on Osteoporosis in our book, “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause.”

Note to Reader from Virginia Hopkins
Dr. John Lee was my great friend, mentor, co-author and business partner. This website is dedicated to continuing the work that Dr. Lee and I did together to educate and inform women and men about natural hormones, hormone balance and achieving optimal health. Dr. John Lee was a courageous pioneer who changed the face of medicine by introducing the concepts of natural progesterone, estrogen dominance and hormone balance to a large audience of women and men seeking answers to their hormone questions. Dr. Lee has left us a wonderful collection of writings from his newsletters that are, in large part, freely shared on this website. Enjoy!

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