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Osteoporosis Drugs do not eliminate the need for a Bone Healthy Diet

Drugs to prevent bone loss in people with osteoporosis and osteopenia are promoted and prescribed widely and aggressively.   There is a concern among some osteoporosis experts that osteoporosis drugs are being overprescribed or prescribed before exercise and diet are given a chance to improve or stabilize bone health.  Before taking osteoporosis drugs it is important to understand all the alternatives as well as the impact of all therapies, interventions and treatments, including what you can do diet and exercise wise to build stronger bones.

Some people may think that taking bisphosphonates or other osteoporosis drugs will not only prevent fractures, but also negate the need to worry about nutrition, other than taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.  It is important to understand that osteoporosis drugs are not 100% effective at preventing fractures, they can have undesirable side effects and some authorities are recommending bisphosphonates not be taken for more than 3 to 5 years.  Numerous studies on current osteoporosis drugs have found a reduced risk of fractures but the drugs vary significantly in their level of effectiveness and as to what type of fractures they actually prevent.  On average, bisphosphonates impact on hip fracture reduction ranges from 40 to 50%.  If you choose to take osteoporosis medications, it is still extremely important to undertake an appropriate exercise program and eat a diet that supports healthy bones. You should establish a good exercise and diet program to support current health and prepare for when you will need to go off the drugs.

The side effects and issues related to osteoporosis drugs make the decision as to whether to take the drugs difficult and stressful.  While this is a decision that must be made by each individual based on their unique situation, both diet and exercise, offer interventions you can control without the concern for short and long-term negative side effects.  Diet and exercise are not less important than drug therapy and choosing to take osteoporosis drugs does not eliminate the need for a bone healthy diet and appropriate exercise program.

Photo by Kristine Nguyen. Used with permission of Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

posted on 8/18/2015