Bone health is such an important topic, especially for the growing dance students, because about 50-60% of bone mass is developed during puberty. After the age of 35, you will start losing the bones you’ve “stored” earlier in your life. So it’s crucial to bank up on the bone mass in your teenage years.
As IADMS states in their Physical and Nutritional Guidelines, “Poor nutrition, disordered eating, and excessive training can lead to hormone imbalance followed by delayed menarche (onset of menses) or amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) which can frequently cause sub-optimal bone mineral density in the young dancer.”
You wouldn’t want to find yourself in your career experiencing frequent stress fractures and weaknesses; nor would you want to end up with osteoporosis (deterioration of bone).
What nutrients help form strong bones?
You’ve all heard it before: “Calcium for strong bones”.
Bones aren’t bones without calcium. Bones become stronger by absorbing calcium. And for calcium to be properly absorbed, it needs help from other nutrients (e.g. vitamin D) and hormones (e.g. oestrogen, the female sex hormone).
Calcium-rich foods include:
- Dairy such as cheese, milk and yoghurt
- Fish with edible bones such as sardines
- Tofu (calcium-set)
- Soy milk (calcium-fortified)
- Green leafy veggies
Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption. It also helps regulate the levels of calcium and phosphorus (another important bone mineral) in the blood.
Vitamin D is best obtained from sun exposure, so finding a time to spend outside early morning or late afternoon would be ideal for many Australians.
Other than that, you can obtain some vitmain D from oily fish, egg yolks, mushrooms (tan them in the sun!) and other fortified products.
Protein is needed to maintain bone integrity – the collagen matrix. Low intake of protein is associated with more fractures, whilst a too-high protein intake may increase calcium excretion. So moderation is key here. To learn about how much protein you need, read the previous article here.
For strong, healthy bones, spend some time in the sun and enjoy eating calcium-rich foods like dairy, tofu, and fish (with bones)! If you have issues with your menstrual cycle, speak to your GP.
Bonjour JP. Protien intake and bone health. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2011;Marh:81(2-3):134-142.
Hewett EM and Tufano JJ. Bone health in female ballet dancers: a review. EJSS 2015;3(2).
Kerstetter JE et al. The impact of dietary protein on calcium absorption and kinetic measures of bone turnover in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2005;90: 26–31.
Kerstetter JE et al. Meat and soy protein affect calcium homeostasis in healthy women. J Nutr2006;136:1890-1895.
Physical and Nutritional Guidelines. Resource Paper: Bone health and female dancers. IADMS 2008.