Weight loss and your bones: how to diet safety

If you’re planning on losing weight, you may not have considered the health of your skeleton, but as our expert explains, diet and your bones are vitally interlinked

When we plan to drop a few pounds, the last thing we consider is our skeleton. But what we eat (or what we don’t when we’re dieting) is vital for keeping our bones healthy and strong to keep us pain-free and mobile as we get older.

So it’s vital not to let an unhealthy diet today ruin your mobility for tomorrow. We asked Dr Martin Knight, Director of The Spinal Foundation, what to consider when you plan to lose weight.

“Your bones are made of a fibrous scaffold upon which your body deposits calcium and magnesium phosphate crystals,” Dr Knight explains.

“Over your life the deposits are regularly replenished with the help of hormones, vitamins and minerals.

“So when losing weight, it’s very important that you replenish these important vitamins and minerals through food and not cut them out of your diet altogether.”


Dr Knight recommends talking to your GP ahead of dieting to ensure you’re not harming your nutrition. But if you know you’re forever tempted into faddy diets or are constantly ‘slimming’, there are some precautions to take.

“If you are dieting in exotic fashions such as the Atkins diet then I would recommend taking activate calcium and vitamin D3 supplements. (Vitamin D3 is also found in the sunshine),” says Dr Knight.

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Good and bad bone food

We’re all told that milk is packed with calcium but Dr Knight explains that there are other food and drink we should be eating to ensure our body makes the most of this calcium.

“Dairy products are an important part of your diet as they are a rich source of calcium and lactose. The lactose contained in milk assists calcium absorption and is a great way to improve the quality, strength and health of your bones.

He also adds that calcium is best absorbed in smaller amounts more frequently and when eaten or drank with meals.

But beware of chocolate milk.

“It’s not a good source of calcium because chocolate contains calcium-binding oxalates and can interfere with calcium absorption. It has little/no effect on improving the health of your bones."

If you don’t eat dairy products, many alternatives are available.

“Soya milk and yoghurt are available fortified with calcium and green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli are good plant sources of calcium,” Dr Knight explains. “You can also buy foods that are fortified with calcium such as orange juice.

“Vitamin D is also important as it helps your bones to absorb calcium. Eggs, oily fish, and foods fortified with vitamin D such as breakfast cereals are all fantastic ways to get it into your diet.”

“To keep your bones healthy, avoid fizzy drinks, excess alcohol, caffeine, and too much sugar and salt as they are linked to increased risk of osteoporosis.

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Don’t be bone idle

Lack of exercise contributes significantly to osteoporosis and whether or not you’re trying to lose weight it’s important to keep your bones strong by doing weight-bearing exercises to strengthen them and the muscles around them.

“Any weight bearing exercise will strengthen muscles, help to stimulate the bone fibres, and help to increase the thickness and density of your bones,” says Dr Knight.

Posture is also a key factor in strengthening bones as maintenance of a correct posture optimises the pressure and force you place on your bones thoughout your day. Walking, cross-trainers and running will also help to stimulate the process.

“Posture is determined by the strength of the abdominal muscles, diaphragm and pelvic floor and the deep muscles in the back working together and keeping the pelvis rotation correct," Dr Knight explains. "So it’s important to work on these muscles and develop your core strength. Pilates and yoga can help with these and you can see a specialist if for more targeted exercises on the area."

Dr Martin Knight is the Director of The Spinal Foundation. For more information, visit www.spinal-foundation.org / @DrMartinKnight