Diet, nutrition and the prevention of osteoporosis

Public Health Nutr. 2004 Feb;7(1A):227-43. doi: 10.1079/phn2003590.


Objective: To review the evidence on diet and nutrition relating to osteoporosis and provide recommendations for preventing osteoporosis, in particular, osteopototic fracture.

Approach: Firstly, to review the definition, diagnosis and epidemiology of osteoporosis, to discuss the difficulties in using bone mineral density to define osteoporosis risk in a world-wide context and to propose that fragility fracture should be considered as the disease endpoint. Secondly, to provide an overview of the scientific data, the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence and the conceptual difficulties in interpreting studies linking diet, nutrition and osteoporosis. The following were considered: calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, protein and fluorine. Other potential dietary influences on bone health were also discussed, including vitamins, trace elements, electrolytes, acid-base balance, phyto-oestrogens, vegetarianism and lactose intolerance.

Conclusions: There is insufficient knowledge linking bone mineral status, growth rates or bone turnover in children and adolescents to long-term benefits in old age for these indices to be used as markers of osteoporotic disease risk. For adults, the evidence of a link between intakes of any dietary component and fracture risk is not sufficiently secure to make firm recommendations, with the exception of calcium and vitamin D. For other aspects of the diet, accumulating evidence suggests that current healthy-eating advice to decrease sodium intake, to increase potassium intake, and to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables is unlikely to be detrimental to bone health and may be beneficial.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Bone Density*
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Diet*
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • World Health Organization


  • Biomarkers
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamin D