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Is osteoporosis a feminist issue?

(38 Posts)
garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 13:13:57

I came to this after researching nutritional guidance for a friend with advanced osteoporosis. She won't take my advice. She's a beautiful, bird-like vegan with many food intolerances and food dislikes. She has never eaten a fully-balanced diet.

That led me to become interested in women's (often unconscious) attitudes to food. I found many, many women who automatically give the larger protein portion to the men. I found, of course, thousands of women with long-term eating disorders. I also noticed that, amongst the smaller-portion women, there were many who snack later: this may well be due to protein insufficiency but a yoghurt, crisps or chocolate bar won't compensate nutritionally.

I'm just throwing this out there in case anyone's interested.

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 13:14:46

I'm very well versed in nutrition; this is the positive outcome of my previous anorexia. I'm not a nutritionist. I do not have osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is known to be linked to oestrogen deficiency, but the mechanism for this is unclear - men rarely suffer from it.
Osteoporosis is a common result of malnutrition.
Malnutrition is not a calorie problem, it occurs due to imbalanced diet & lack of micronutrients.
Bone health relies on various nutrient conversions within the body; the chemicals required for this are best transported by animal fats and proteins.

Would love to hear others' input smile

VivaLeBeaver Sat 09-Jul-11 13:18:11

Your risk of getting it is also increased if you were bottle fed as a baby. So if you get it and were bottle fed you can blame your mum. wink

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 13:21:47

Well, well! Really? That's interesting smile

Query, though - British women who are 80+ now would have been breast-fed ...

TimeWasting Sat 09-Jul-11 13:21:51

For starters a vegan diet can be balanced, though it is sometimes used by an eating-disordered person to control intake.
Dairy is not necessary for bone health.

Women in general do need less to eat than men in general.

However, malnutrition in women as they go without to feed husband and children is certainly a feminist issue, as is the prevalence of EDs amongst girls and women.

IroningBoardForSurfBoard Sat 09-Jul-11 13:23:08

I haven't done any research into dietary guidance as such, but will agree with your link to eating less protein and snacking.

Protein foods are harder to digest and therefore stay in the gut longer, and on the whole, protein-rich foods take more chewing - which is a vital process in digestion and the perception we have of eating to fullfill an appetite.

It was often the women who would forego their food rations during such times, for the sake of men/children.

A chocolate bar after a meal is often seen as a reward, perhaps for 'giving up' vital food.

Albeit subconsciously

Interesting point smile

SardineQueen Sat 09-Jul-11 13:30:12

Isn't exercise linked to bone mass as well?

Certainly women are culturally not as encouraged to exercise as much as men, there seems to be less for them, and girls seem to drop out of exercise quite young for various reasons.

But if it is true that women have crapper diets and don't exercise, why do they live longer than men with men statistically having the crapper diet? Will this trend be reversed as time passes?

Don't know.

I do agree that inordinate amounts of women (most of them IME sad) have a terrible attitude to food, are permanently on diets, or breaking diets, talk about food incessently, have an unhealthy interest in what others eat, and do that ridiculous thing of having 1/2 a salad leaf for lunch in a terribly worthy way and then stuffing themselves full of biscuits at about 3. (This has been the case with most of the women in most of the offices I have worked in - it's appalling really).

NotJustKangaskhan Sat 09-Jul-11 13:35:39

It could be considered a feminist issue. The current advice typically given out is quite horrible in context. It's all diet based blaming (if you ate the right things, you would be healthier!). Nutrition actually only plays a very limited role in osteoporosis, exercise has far more to do with bone regeneration.

Recent article on osteoporosis myths and facts

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 13:37:21

You're right, SQ, load-bearing exercise is a major factor in bone health. As you say, that could easily be linked to cultural habits by gender. It's the weight-bearing stuff that makes a difference, not CV exercise which is what women mostly do.

Osteoporosis = common in ageing women, therefore must = hormone-related.
I now doubt this strongly! For one thing, nobody's adequately explained what oestrogen/estradiol has got to do with bone metabolism. And, for another, if bone loss is due to being "less of a woman", wouldn't all men have it??

But perhaps women's health choices wrt diet and exercise explain it all. That would make it a massively feminist issue.

As you've all pointed out, eating disorders are endemic in our culture(s) and that will only make things worse sad

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 13:39:52

Great link, Kanga, thanks. Am very worried now, as I've got the beginnings of the 'hump' shock

Back to Pilates and yoga for me, then ...

TimeWasting Sat 09-Jul-11 13:40:09

Strength training is particularly good for osteporosis I believe, but women in general are reluctant to do this in the (false) belief that it will lead them to get unfeminine bulky muscles.

It's so self-defeating in a way, because increasing muscle mass raises the metabolism making it easier to burn fat, whereas sitting around starving and consequently binging will not ever work.
But then we aren't really trying to be slim and fit, we are martyring ourselves to femininity.

NotJustKangaskhan Sat 09-Jul-11 14:06:32

No need to worry, just be conscious of it and pull your head and neck back when you feel yourself starting to 'hump' grin.

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 14:13:57

I'm gonna have to put the laptop on a high shelf, then!

And eat lots of beef. Which reminds me .... <fetches unprepared, past-use-by stew ingredients out of fridge>

Catitainahatita Sat 09-Jul-11 16:19:25

I got osteopenia (sp) after being ill with undiagnosed diabetes for several months (more like a year). I was also malnourished for the same reason. It took me over a year after the diagnosis to regain bone mass and balance my weight.

Don't know if that is relevant. I just wanted to say that vis a vis older women with osteoporsis: yes bfing was common, but so was feeding children evaporated milk as a bf substitute. Obviously this was better than the older practise of giving them gin in the same circumstances.....but probably didn't give them the best start. Plus 80 years old will have lived through the rationing in the 2WW which will have also had an impact.

saggarmakersbottomknocker Sat 09-Jul-11 16:26:56

Hmm - I'm not sure if exercise is actually an issue wrt to women currently in their 80s. That generation certainly did more weight bearing exercise than the modern generation, and strength too - running a household was much more physically demanding than it is today.

Perhaps their osteoporosis was more dietary related whereas for my generation (born 60s) more due to lack of (or the wrong type of) exercise?

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 17:36:58

That's a good point about elderly women having done plenty of hard labour. Their diets have been restricted, too, especially during and after the war. Lots of veg and starch, but poor in protein and in variety.

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 17:39:10

That is interesting, Catitainahatita! I didn't realise diet could have such a quick effect on bone mass ... congrats on what sounds like a perfect recovery smile

alistron1 Sat 09-Jul-11 17:45:26

My 89 year old grandfather has osteoporosis, I can think of one other male relative who also had it. My grandfather has always eaten well, been active etc...

floyjoy Sat 09-Jul-11 19:59:04

Carol J Adams's The Sexual Politics of Meat is an interesting read about the history of meat consumption (as you say, saving the meat for the hard-working husband while the children and wife have barely any food) and current cultural assumptions (her stuff on meat advertising is jaw-dropping in terms of sexism).

There are sources of calcium other than dairy. Veganism is usually an ethical or health choice rather than an attempt to limit calories/fat in a negative way. I notice a trend towards labelling vegetarian or vegan diets as forms of eating disorders which maybe reflects their growth. Are men considered to be displaying signs of an eating disorder if they chose a specific diet? Most people who adopt such a diet tend to give nutrition a lot of thought, more than they did in the past usually and more than a lot of omnivores.

Osteoporoisis - I've always had the feeling that it's considered one of those 'aging' conditions and therefore not worth giving much attention to. The fact that it impacts women, ditto. More generally, from what I see conditions that often effect older women are given short shrift. I may be wrong but I'll be finding out for myself pretty soon.

SardineQueen Sat 09-Jul-11 21:05:10

Yes floyjoy the vegans I know have that diet for ethical reasons rather than anything else.

On meat. It is very interesting. I love meat, personally. Obviously red meat is bad in large regular doses but equally it is quick, easy calories for the body, all that lovely protein, and of course stacks of iron. Near my old work there was a special sandwich bar that had fresh roasted joints of meat and they would carve it for you to go into fresh bread to make the most delicious sandwiches you can imagine. It was takeaway only and the queue was often very long - and I was often the only woman in it. Which was interesting. I asked a friend what she made of it. She said that women like "things like salads - pulses and so on more". Do they? Really? Is it a genuine awareness of health issues that means that women aren't queueing for meat, because of socialisation that means that women don't feel it's appropriate to eat hunks of red meat, or because women's taste buds are different to men's and they genuinely don't like it?

I would like to think that women weren't in the queue because they were getting what they really fancied eating somewhere else, whatever it might be. But knowing just how delicious these sandwiches were, I wondered whether that was really the case.

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 21:50:53

That Carol Adams book sounds really interesting!

Dietary calcium isn't the only significant factor in bone health for adults. I've forgotten the details of everything I found out for my friend, but it was to do with metabolic processes that rely on animal fats. Something to do with the transportation of Vitamin A (not sure) and some other things. I tried to persuade her to eat some cream & butter at least, as no animals are hurt in the making, but she's dairy intolerant sad

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 21:56:04

That's bonkers, SQ! I'd have been in that queue with you grin
Lots of red meat recommended for CFS, hurrah - I've got an 'excuse' at last, though god knows why I should need one.

The tribes that eat blood and milk (the Masai?) are among the healthiest in the world. Inuit, who eat all fish, meat and tons of animal fat have a close to zero incidence of cancer and never get colds. That might have something to do with the cold, though.

Back to feminist eating issues: It's entirely possible that women are smaller than men due to eating less through infancy and childhood. It's never been subjected to a controlled study, afaik.

We need Susie Orbach!

TimeWasting Sat 09-Jul-11 21:56:34

Animal products aren't necessary for good nutrition if you're eating a balanced vegan diet though.

And vegans would certainly disagree that animals aren't hurt in the dairy industry. I think you might help your friend more if you understood veganism better.

Is her diet restricted other ways? Does she not eat nuts or oils etc.?

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 22:07:41

I accept that I have little or no knowledge of vegan issues. My friend has an impaired ability to digest fats - I didn't know this beforehand. Consequently, she uses very little oil. She has lots of nuts and pulses, tofu and a very small amount of soya milk (fat-free).

Vegan food-combining is ever so difficult to pull off correctly, even if you can eat fats and gluten. It's much easier for vegetarians who eat dairy.

Not sure if vegans can eat Quorn? You should be able to, I think - it's made from a kind of lichen. It's the best non-animal protein replacement in many ways.

garlicnutter Sat 09-Jul-11 22:17:56

Sorry, off-topic again - TW, I found this article on bone health and a vegan diet. It doesn't mention that Vitamin D is synthesised on the skin by the reaction of cholesterol with sunlight. So not only do you need sunshine, you also need to get enough cholesterol by eating the right kind of fats.

Vegetable sources of collagen include Quorn and some seaweeds. Most plant collagens are the wrong kind for humans, though you should of course encourage collagen synthesis through combining your protein sources smile

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