Has dieting and clean eating damaged your body? There’s now a way to find out

Anyone who has dieted, or cut out major food groups such as dairy, should be aware that this may have catastrophic effects on bone health -  according to The National Osteoporosis Society (NOS)

Their research found that 70% of 18 – 35 year olds are currently, or have previously been, dieting. Around 20% had cut or significantly reduced bone-strengthening, calcium-rich dairy in their diet.

Diet before the age of 25 is extremely important in building good bone health. Cutting calcium can result in developing osteoporosis in the future. This is a condition which causes the bones to break easily. It also can cause a ‘Dowager’s Hump', - that forward curvature of the spine which is often seen in older people, usually women. This is caused by microfractures of the vertebral bodies in the spine, resulting in a stoop. 

Bone health building blocks

The building blocks of bone health are set in early adulthood. Professor Susan Lanham-New, Clinical Advisor to the National Osteoporosis Society and Professor of Nutrition at the University of Surrey, says: “Diet in early adulthood is so important because by the time we get into our late twenties it is too late to reverse the damage caused by poor diet and nutrient deficiencies and the opportunity to build strong bones has passed.”

Half of all women and one in five men develop osteoporosis after the age of 50. Broken bones, also known as fractures, caused by osteoporosis can be very painful and slow to recover from. A poor diet for those in their teens and early twenties now could see a significant rise in the numbers of people suffering fractures and the complications associated with them in the future.

Preventing future osteoproosis in teens

The National Osteoporosis Society has started a campaign to reverse the trend of young people eating less calcium - ‘A Message to My Younger Self’.  Its aim is to reach out to young people and help them realise how vital it is to look after one’s bones.

Liz Earle, wellbeing and beauty expert is fronting the campaign. She commented: “When I was growing up, my meals weren’t photographed and shared on social media. The pressure young women are under to match what their idols on Instagram are eating is really high and it’s for this reason that I wanted to front this campaign. Cooking and eating together provides the perfect opportunity for families to build healthy habits and the chance for discussion about what really makes a deliciously healthy diet. Social media has caused a lot of confusion over what is “healthy” and children and young adults need to get their understanding of nutrition from real life experiences, not a fashionable food-fad image on a screen.”

The National Osteoporosis Society have these recommendations for young people

•             A healthy balanced diet, including all food groups, is essential for good bone health.

•             The foundations of good bone health are built before the age of 25, so diet in early adulthood plays a key part in protecting the future health of bones.

•             Calcium and vitamin D are essential components of a healthy diet and particularly essential for bone health

•             Specific foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D include most dairy products, green leafy vegetables, salmon, sardines, broccoli and baked beans.

•             Vitamin D can also come from the sunlight and it is important to spend some time with skin exposed to the sun.

Find out if you’re at risk from osteoporosis

According to Professor David Reid, a voluntary ambassador for The National Osteoporosis Society and one of the UK’s leading authority of bone health, you can discover if you are at risk of osteoporosis with DEXA scan.  Professor Reid, who practices at Twenty-five Harley Street Day Clinic said: “Knowing your risk of osteoporosis means that you can start getting the right treatment, and start improving your bone health as soon as possible. By changing your lifestyle – taking more exercise for instance, and taking prescribed medication along with supplements – and getting the correct treatment, it’s possible to reduce your risk by up to 70%.’

DEXA scans are one of the most exciting breakthroughs for bone health and the diagnosis of osteoporosis, but they can be used for so much more. DEXA – also referred to as DXA – is short for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. DEXA scans are safe, accurate, painless and non-invasive.

How does a DEXA scan work?

Radiation (X-rays) go through your body during the DEXA scan. Some of the radiation is taken in by the bone and soft tissue and some travels through your body.

The DEXA scanner works out how much radiation is being passed through your bones by directing X-ray energy through the bone at a very fast rate, alternating from two different sources.

This allows the scanner to work out your bone density. It can also calculate how this measurement compares to other people who are the same age and sex, giving a good indication as to whether you’re at risk of conditions such as osteoporosis and osteopenia (when the bone thins - often a precursor to osteoporosis).

You can book a DEXA scan at Twenty-five Harley Street Day Clinic, 25 Harley Street, London, W1G 9QW Telephone 020 3883 9525, or email [email protected].

An element that forms the structure of bones and teeth and is essential to many of the body's functions. Full medical glossary
A condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. Full medical glossary
The process of determining which condition a patient may have. Full medical glossary
A means of measuring bone density. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Full medical glossary
Any test or technique that does not involve penetration of the skin. The term 'non-invasive' may also describe tumours that do not invade surrounding tissues. Full medical glossary

A  condition in which the protein and mineral content of bone tissue is reduced, but less severely than in osteoporosis.

Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary
Energy in the form of waves or particles, including radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays. Full medical glossary
A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. Full medical glossary
Affecting the vertebrae, the bones of the spine, or the joints between them Full medical glossary
Essential substances that cannot be produced by the body and so must be acquired from the diet. Full medical glossary
A type of electromagnetic radiation used to produce images of the body. Full medical glossary