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How does a balanced diet support bones and muscles?

A healthy, balanced diet is key to staying well as people age, and maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of chronic disease

A healthy, balanced diet is key to staying well as people age, and maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of chronic disease.

Government advice on a healthy, balanced diet is encapsulated in the UK’s national food guide, the Eatwell Guide.

The Eatwell Guide makes healthy eating easier to understand by giving a visual representation of the types and proportions of foods needed for a healthy balanced diet.

Bone health

Supporting people to maintain a healthy weight, along with advocating the Chief Medical Officers (CMO) recommendations for physical activity across the life course, can reduce the risks of developing musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, such as back and neck pain, and osteoarthritis of the knee and hip.

A healthy balanced diet is also important for good bone health . Poor bone health can cause conditions such as osteoporosis and increase the risk of breaking a bone from a fall later in life.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) identifies vitamin D and calcium as important micronutrients for MSK health to maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium.

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Supplementing vitamin D

The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. Government advice recommends that in the summer months most adults will obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunshine when they are outdoors and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

However, because it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months. Read more on the NHS guidance here.

People whose skin has little or no exposure to the sun, such as those living in an institution (for example, a care home), or who are not often outdoors or who cover their skin when outdoors, risk vitamin D deficiency and should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.

People from ethnic minority groups who have dark skin, such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight so should consider taking a vitamin D supplement all year round.

Calcium is required for good bone health and eating a healthy, balanced diet consistent with the Eatwell Guide will provide all the calcium your body needs.

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Musculoskeletal Health: A Public Health Approach

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