Here’s how to lose weight without affecting your bone health.
There are so many reasons to start dropping kilos – you look better, feel more confident, and reduce your chances of developing diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease among other chronic illnesses.
The downside of weight loss that no one really talks about? Losing bone. “Excessive weight loss will trigger the body into the catabolic (deconstruction) state. It will tip the bone repair mechanism into negative balance, so more bone is lost rather than built,” explains Dr Henry Chan, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Orchard.
In fact, some experts have estimated that you can lose about 16.5g of bone for ever 1kg of fat lost. This is not good news for women who are at a higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
In a 2006 US study, dieters who lost weight also lost bone in their spines, hips and upper legs – areas that are most prone to fracturing. Bone loss is a silent process that only shows up when accidents come up later in life. According to the Health Promotion Board, the cases of hip fractures among women has increased five times over the last 30 years in women aged 50 and above.
To help you preserve your bone mass and stay strong, here are some tips to follow.
1. Calculate your Body Mass Index
Your BMI is often the first thing the doctor looks at when assessing your risk of osteoporosis. The healthy range is between 18 and 23. If your BMI falls below 18, you fall into the at-risk group. When you go on a weight loss endeavour, ensure you don’t dip below the lower limit. That being said, naturally healthy light-weight folks tend not to stress their bones as much and may not need as much bone strength to support their weight.
(Also read: Prevent Osteoporosis with Tai Chi)
2. Say no to crash diets
A short-term diet to say fit into your CNY dress is unlikely to cause any harm, but caloric deprivation lasting more than a few weeks may cause long-term damage to your skeletal health. Here is a more sensible way of unnecessary calories from your diet. Start with added sugars, snacks and carbonated drinks, says Dr Chan. The key to minimising bone loss is to lose weight gradually through a sensible diet and exercise so the body can adapt and grow fitter day by day, he adds.
3. Get in your nutrients
“Ensure adequate intake of dietary calcium, minerals and vitamin D,” says Dr Leslie Leong, orthopaedic surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital. The recommended daily allowance of calcium for a normal female adult is 800mg or 1,000mg if you are above the age of 50. You can get this amount in about two glass of low-fat milk plus a serving of calcium-rich non-dairy food like spinach and tofu.
To get your vitamin D, be sure to get in between five and 30 minutes of sun exposure (early morning is best) at least twice a week. You can also find vitamin D in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel and fortified products like milk, juices and cereals.
Plus, consuming enough proteins from lean meats and low-fat dairy products can also help you preserve bone density while you lose weight, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Lean proteins have the added benefits of preserving muscle mass, lowering blood sugar and reducing fats in within the tummy.
4. Get moving
The best kinds of exercise are weight-bearing movements like jogging and walking and strength training including weight lifting, squats and push-ups. When you put controlled stress on your bones, you put bone-forming cells to work, resulting in denser bones over time. However, if you are new to the workout and are at risk of having weaker bones, consult a doctor before starting a new routine.
(Also read: Easy Exercises to Strengthen Bones)