Pregnancy is a beautiful time in a woman’s life. While carrying a little soul is magnificent, there is a silent disease that affects approximately 25% of Hong Kong women lurking right around the corner if the increased demand for calcium intake during pregnancy is not met. Replenishing the lost calcium during pregnancy is of utmost importance for both the mother and baby.
What is this silent bone disease?
Osteoporosis is the progression of bone loss where the bone becomes weak and porous. It can affect one specific area at a time while the rest is healthy. Osteoporosis is usually painless until a fracture happens following by a fall. Although modern techniques being used to diagnose this bone condition buffers people from suffering a fracture after treatment, it's still very difficult for someone to realize they have osteoporosis without suffering a fracture first. This is why it is called a silent bone disease. Read more on what is osteoporosis from This Should be Your #1 Concern in Anti-Aging.
What causes pregnancy-associated osteoporosis?
Research published by Obstetrics & Gynecology Science stated that pregnancy-associated osteoporosis can be a dangerous condition causing severe back pain, height loss and in some worse cases, it can result in disability. It is important to pay attention to your bone profile during pregnancy.
During the last trimester of pregnancy, calcium is actively transferred between mother and fetus for the rapid growth of the fetal skeleton. The moment the mother lacks sufficient calcium to provide the fetus, excessive resorption of calcium by the maternal skeleton occurs.
Such a pregnancy-related condition was only recognized by the medical world in the 1950s and it was not often reported in the medical literature. In 2017, the faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Nigeria had discovered the direct link between osteoporosis and pregnancy. The fetus demands a huge amount of calcium for their rapid growth. When the mother does not get sufficient dietary calcium, calcium resorption from the maternal bones increases to meet the fetal calcium demand. This decreases in bone formation and causes osteoporosis in pregnancy.
In order to fulfill the fetal need for skeletal growth, an extra intake of 200mg calcium per day on top of the reference daily intake of calcium at 1000mg is recommended.
Are Asians aware of bone health?
Given the fact that calcium and vitamin D are the essential nutrients for optimal bone health, sufficient Vitamin D can also affect bone health. Humans can synthesize vitamin D from exposing skin to sunlight. This makes one of the most simple ways to obtain vitamin D is through sunlight.
A finding established by the Department of Pharmacology at The National University of Malaysia last year stated that
“most Asians have a negative attitude towards calcium-rich foods, mainly dairy products due to lactose intolerance, aversion to the taste of dairy products or the absence of motivation….. Besides, the majority of them have a negative attitude towards sun exposure due to the fear of getting skin cancer or tanning.”
The finding also disclosed that although Asians are willing to take supplements to fill the calcium intake gap in their diet, they were not aware of the daily recommended intake of calcium. This perturbing fact reflects that Asians are not aware of the importance of bone health. To increase pregnant women’s knowledge of bone health, it is important to educate them on the importance to replenish calcium loss, preventing further bone loss. As a result, it lowers the risk of them developing pregnancy-associated osteoporosis.
What are friends of calcium?
Pregnant women should pay attention to their calcium intake, but are all sources of calcium equal? As published in the Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition by Phyllis A. Balch CNC, ‘the type of calcium we take and whether there is a correct balance of magnesium, vitamin D3 and other nutrients are all factors that dictate an adequate intake of calcium.
Besides the consumption of foods that are rich in calcium, calcium supplements that also have nutrients to enhance absorption and utilization of calcium like vitamins C, D, E, K and magnesium are just as important. Read more for the examples of foods that are high in calcium on The Deal on Dairy.
Written by Chermaine Cheng, Nutritionist