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Healthy eating advice for musculoskeletal health into old age

Dr Vanessa Halliday - healthy eating for our musculoskeletal needs
From birth to old age, a healthy diet is important for optimising musculoskeletal health. A varied, balanced diet in line with the advice in the UK Eatwell Guide should contain sufficient macro and micronutrients that will help prevent bone and muscle disorders. This advice includes eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, basing meals on starchy wholegrain carbohydrates, such as potatoes, rice, pasta and bread; eating beans, pulses, eggs, fish or meat that are high in protein including dairy or dairy alternatives; and ensuring an adequate intake of at least six to eight glasses of fluid each day. To maximise bone health, attention needs to be given to including foods in the diet that are rich in calcium.
Dairy products, along with fortified non-dairy alternatives, including milk and yoghurt are high in calcium with other options such as fortified breakfast cereals, sardines, pilchards, and salmon with bones, bread, broccoli and oranges, all contributing as main sources of the nutrient. Whilst most people should be able to get adequate amounts of calcium from their diet, those that restrict or avoid the intake of dairy products due to, for example, lactose intolerance, cow’s milk allergy, or veganism, may need to review what they eat and consider taking a supplement. Unlike calcium, dietary sources of vitamin D are limited.
Whilst foods such as oily fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and fat spreads do contain the nutrient, we largely rely on obtaining vitamin D from the sunlight on our skin. This means that some groups of the population, such as children under five, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people over 65, those with darker skin, and people who have low or no exposure to the sun, are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. For this reason, taking a daily vitamin D supplement of ten micrograms a day for at-risk groups is recommended. In the UK, supplementation has recently been extended to include everyone over the age of one during the winter months.
As previously highlighted, overweight and obesity are associated with musculoskeletal disorders at each stage of the lifespan. In childhood, obesity has been shown to be associated with a number of musculoskeletal problems, including an increase in ankle and foot problems and knee pain. Into adulthood, excess weight can have chronic and debilitating effects on the musculoskeletal system with associated physical or mental ill health. This means that an important aspect of nutrition in relation to muscle and bone health is the need for a diet that is balanced with an individual’s energy requirements. Importantly, foods that are high in sugar and fat, such as cakes, crisps, sugary drinks and confectionery should be eaten less often.
Coupled with being physically active, weight reduction can be an important part of improving function and avoiding some of the consequences of musculoskeletal disorders.

In this video, Dr Vanessa Halliday summarises the key healthy eating messages for musculoskeletal health that we have learned about this week.

What factors affect the dietary choices of older people in your community?
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The Musculoskeletal System: The Science of Staying Active into Old Age

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